The process of tooth decay is an infectious demineralization caused by the bacteria, Strep Mutans (And yes it is transmissible just like other bacteria that cause infections). The dental term to describe tooth decays is called caries.
The caries (tooth decay) process goes like this. The host tooth is occupied by the cariogenic bacteria Strep Mutans, a food source such as sugar is then supplied to the bacteria through eating and the bacteria consume the sugar producing acid and thick film called plaque. The bacteria’s consumption of the sugar causes the mouth to be acidic. Once the mouth’s pH falls below 5.5 the acid attack on the teeth on the teeth begins. This acid attack on the mouth is what actually causes the tooth to demineralize, otherwise known as tooth decay.
You may wonder are other sources of acid equally as damaging to the teeth?
The answer is YES!
There are other sources of acid that can also demineralize the teeth other than just the bacteria in your mouth. This is why soft drinks can be so bad for you, particularly citrus flavored soft drinks. First, they have citric acid, which contributes to tooth demineralization. Then they are carbonated, which has carbonic acid, which further contributes, lastly the sugar feeds the bacteria, which also produce the acid. This makes soft drinks a triple threat to your mouth. Outside of soft drinks, acid can also come from citrus fruits such as people that eat lemons or oranges in high quantities, acid reflux and diseases like bulimia..
You can minimize the acid attack on your teeth by changing your dietary habits to avoid foods high in acid and sugar, such as drinking diet beverages and eating sugar free candy. Further, after eating it is always a good idea to rinse with water and consider chewing a sugar free gum containing xylitol. In certain instances when an acid attack cannot be avoided such as acid reflux or vomiting it is a good idea to rinse with a tablespoon of baking soda in water to neutralize the acid.
For more strategies to minimize tooth demineralization talk to your dentist.
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