How Your Teeth Decay

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You need food, particularly sweet and sticky food, for the bacteria in your mouth to produce acids that will attack the tooth enamel (outer surface of the tooth). Sugars, especially sucrose, react with bacteria to produce acid. The acid from the bacteria can decay your teeth.

It’s not just candy and ice cream we’re talking about. All carbohydrate foods, as they are digested, eventually break down into simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose. Some of this digestion begins in the mouth. Foods that break down into simple sugars in the mouth are called fermentable carbohydrates. These include the obvious sugary foods, such as cookies, cakes, soft drinks and candy, but also pretzels, crackers, bananas, potato chips and breakfast cereals. The sugars in these foods combine with the bacteria normally in the mouth to form acids. These acids cause the mineral crystals inside the teeth to begin to dissolve.

The dental caries lesion forms when these acids start to dissolve a tooth’s outer protective layer, the enamel. A cavity forms when the tooth decay breaks through the enamel to the underlying layers of the tooth. You can reverse a caries lesion (before it becomes a cavity) by using a variety of fluoride products. These include fluoridated water, fluoride rinses for use at home, and, of course, any commonly used fluoridated toothpaste.

Every time you eat, the bacteria in your mouth produce acid. Therefore, the more times you eat the more times your teeth are exposed to an acid attack.

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