The mouth is colonized by hundreds of bacterial species, but only a small number of these are the type that is responsible for tooth decay. These bacteria adhere to the tooth surface in layers of plaque that all of us develop on our teeth.
These bacteria consume carbohydrates that we place in our mouth. As they metabolize the carbohydrates they produce acid as a byproduct, which lowers the pH in our mouth and leads to the breakdown of the enamel that normally protects our teeth, resulting in a cavity. There are several ways to combat this in our mouth:
First, we can reduce the effect of these harmful bacteria by routinely brushing the plaque off our teeth. This serves as a scaffolding for them to establish themselves and cause damage. Brushing our teeth is like demolishing their work and making them start from scratch again.
Second, we can avoid eating processed foods and refined sugars that are high in carbohydrates. Cavity-causing bacterial thrive with this type of continual food supply. These kinds of foods that are unhealthy for the rest of our bodies are also unhealthy for our mouth.
Some people have health conditions that cause a greater number of these bacteria to be present in their mouth, which increases their risk for tooth decay. We can test saliva samples to determine who may be high risk. A thorough health evaluation is important to understand why these risks are present and to take proactive steps to reduce these risks to avoid future dental problems.