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Tooth Decay Process


Your teeth are made up of calcium phosphate minerals. When you consume foods, they are chewed up, and the small remaining debris is called plaque. The plaque contains protein, fat, saliva, bacteria and CARBOHYDRATES. Examples of carbohydrates include, bread, pasta, rice, chips, sugar, chocolates, sweets etc.


The bacteria in your mouth (Streptococcus Mutans and Lactobacilli in particular) consume these carbohydrates and form LACTIC ACID. This acid formation occurs within five minutes of you consuming foods and can last up to forty five minutes in duration. The acid slowly eats away at the teeth causing loss of minerals in the tooth surface. Over a period of time, so many minerals are lost that the tooth starts to discolour, and then final the surface breaks which causes a cavity to form. When the cavity forms it is often detected too late as the tooth decay has progressed close to the nerve. The saliva in your mouth acts as a buffer and often neutralises the acids. But if there is too much acid production then you go into acid demineralisation of your teeth which over a long period of time results in cavities.



Oral care & decay preventive dentistry


To prevent dental decay from occurring, reduce your carbohydrate intake. Cut down the sugars, pastas, chips fries etc. The less carbohydrates you ingest, the less the bacteria has to form the lactic acid and less damage to your teeth. You should also check how frequent you eat. A normal person would have three main meals in the day - breakfast lunch and dinner - and have three acid attacks during the day. A frequent snacker for example will have a coffee with two sugars, then breakfast, then mid-morning biscuits, lunch, then an afternoon snack then dinner and mint after the dinner. The more frequent snacking you do, the more acid damage you are doing to your teeth.


Drinking lots of water straight after you consume foods will neutralise the acids in your mouth and help reduce cavities. Chewing gum companies have been marketing their products making claims of reducing cavities. It is correct, however they do not tell you that the amount of saliva you create from chewing gum is quite small. You are better off drinking and rinsing your mouth with water; it’s cheaper and is in greater volume. There are some dentists who will also claim that by rinsing your mouth straight after you eat foods, you are washing the lost minerals out of your mouth.


That is correct to a degree, but what is the worse of the two evils? a) Having acid eat away at your teeth for the next 45 minutes, or b) rinsing your mouth, neutralising the acids and losing some minerals? I have been advising my patients the latter; in fact I have often told patients to brush their teeth straight after they eat foods to remove the debris so the acids don’t have a chance to form.


For patients with a high risk of getting cavities I recommend they rinse their teeth with NeutraFluor 5000 or NeutraFluor 9000, available from the chemist. The Fluoride in these mouth rinses creates Fluorapatite, which is a stronger and more acid resistant form of tooth structure. The Fluorapatite is 100 times more acid resistant that normal hydroxyapatite (normal teeth). For the scientist out there, Fluorapatite dissolves when a pH of 3 is reached compared to a pH of 5 for hydroxyapatite.


Any patient who comes to our dental clinic in Essendon can talk with the dentist about how to prevent cavities. People who are in high risk of getting decay are chefs, pregnant women, and obese people as they frequently taste their foods and consume carbohydrates on a regular basis. Other people who are also at high risk of getting cavities are methamphetamine (ice and speed) users and patients with xerostomia (dry mouth). These people have a reduction in the salivary flow and do not have any saliva to neutralise the acids in the mouth and as a result have a higher rates of cavities in the mouth. Dental Essence’s general dentistry services will assist you with the prevention of tooth decay and advise on the best solution for your individual circumstances.



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