Cavities are explained in different ways to teach children and adults how to avoid them. Many people simplify the story by saying that if you avoid sugar and brush your teeth, you can avoid tooth decay. Like any matter inside your complex body, however, there is more to rotting teeth than just eating too much sugar and skipping out on your preventive dental care. The whole process begins with germs – Streptococcus mutans, to be exact. This particular germ’s journey towards creating tooth decay is not something you may hope for, but interesting nonetheless.
Streptococcus mutans are commonly found in the human mouth, though you weren’t born with the germ as a part of your dental anatomy. S. mutans are able to grow best in temperatures between 18 and 40 degrees Celsius. This makes your mouth, boasting a temperature of around 37 degrees Celsius, the perfect home for these crafty bacteria. Streptococcus mutans have something in common with your body because they break down sugar in order to create energy to live their lives. The by-product sugar consumed by germs is acid. A deluge of lactic acid washing over your smile regularly will demineralizes tooth enamel, which is supposed to serve as the protective outer layer of your smile. When S. mutans aren’t stopped, they will eventually work their way into infecting your dentin, eating away a hole in the tooth structure called a cavity.
Battling Tooth Decay
The importance of biannual checkups may seem clearer to you now that you realize there is a constant battle going on inside your mouth between healthy teeth and bacteria. Small cavities can’t always be prevented by your oral hygiene, which is why visiting your general dentist every six months is so essential. These regular examinations allow your dentist to catch the tiniest cavities and fill them fast. This means germs won’t have a chance to infiltrate your dental pulp and infect your roots. The best way to cut a germ’s travel plans short is to provide the one-two punch of daily oral hygiene and biannual dental checkups.