How does tooth decay occur?
A few factors are required for tooth decay to develop. All must be present and interplay.
Millions of bacteria live inside the mouth. There are certain types of mouth bacteria that are known to cause tooth decay. One of the most common bacteria to cause tooth decay is called Streptococcus Mutans. These decay-causing bacteria use the sugar from the foods and drinks we consume as energy to create acid.
The acid created by the bacteria attacks the surface of the teeth. It causes the minerals inside the tooth enamel to dissolve. This process is known as demineralisation. The minerals being removed from the tooth surfaces causes it to weaken. This process happens every time we consume foods or drinks with sugar as an ingredient.
If these acid attacks occur repeatedly and not enough protection is provided to the teeth, over time this can lead to the development of tooth decay. Factors such as saliva and fluoride help to protect the teeth by neutralizing the acids and replacing the minerals back into the tooth’s surface. This is a process known as remineralisation.
The development of tooth decay can be considered a balancing act. When the harmful factors outweigh the protective factors, that is when tooth decay can occur.