Tooth decay is caused by the exposure (prolonged) to acids produced by mouth bacteria. We cannot dodge bacteria that are dancing in the air wherever we go. When we inhale, it enters our mouth through our nose and adds to everything (such bacterias), including our teeth. There are more microcosms in one mouth ( our mouth is an ecosystem for billions of microorganisms) than humans on our planet.
Sugar is the chief culprit in tooth decay because that is what the bacteria feed on. Bacteria then create acids as a byproduct. Those acids eat at the coating of our teeth until a cavity or hole in the tooth surfaces.
The real story of tooth decay began in the 17th Century when sugar plantations evolved in the “new world.” Until the mid-17th Century, food was prepared and produced with much less added sugar. Then the 18th Century marked sugar beets being harvested in Europe. Now, practically everything we eat, from cereal in the morning to eggs and steak at night, holds additional sugar. Bacteria on our teeth count themselves lucky to live in 2021, where there is an almost endless supply of available food for them to flourish on.
We are in cahoots with sugar and artificial sweeteners, and bacteria when we do not clean and brush our teeth. Leaving the bacteria to happily feed upon sugar and produce dangerous acids in our mouths presents the bacteria the much-needed time to form a visibly regulated colony between the tooth and the gums that we call plaque. Plaque acts as a canvas for the acids that sit on the covering of our enamel. Without washing, acids will eat at our enamel almost at will, creating dental caries and tooth decay.
Decay means demineralization. In other words, the tooth’s outer tissue is so strong because it is 95% mineral. The tooth’s inner tissue, dentin, is a little softer because it is only 65% mineral. Typically, saliva is a natural protector when acids have generated demineralizing, but saliva is almost impotent to repair the damage when plaque is concerned. Acids will start with a little hole in the coating, and once it makes it through to the dentin, it eats the tooth membrane from the inside out. This means severe dental action: fillings or even a painful root canal.
With plaque, the acid density is also higher (Ph 4 or lower), packing a more powerful punch through the tooth’s outer coating tissue. Saliva could take many hours even to penetrate the plaque and initiate the healing process.
There are many preventative measures to take. I know friends who have taken to a no-sweets diet to cut down on their sugar intake. Many bring toothpaste and toothpaste to work or clean with them to clean after each time they eat. Many more carry eco-friendly floss with them.
Can I share a word of caution against two things? Please do not depend too heavily on those fluorides. Little kids take in too much fluoride, even by consuming toothpaste unwittingly or accidentally, developing dental fluorosis or white and yellow stains on their teeth in later childhood. Could you take it in healthy doses?
The second sign is to dodge too much brushing. People who brush extravagantly or use too much pressure tear away the gums and present the roots directly to the acids.
Can I now suggest two things? Clean softly and frequently by brushing and also by flossing. If you can listen to the brushing sound as much as the other noise around the home, you are brushing excessively loudly. With floss and brushing, you don’t need to try too hard to eliminate the bacteria or the plaque.