How Does a Cavity Form?

candyMost kids know that eating lots of candy can cause cavities. But how? Cavities take time to develop. Help your kids learn about how cavities form, and use this knowledge to keep those awful cavities far, far away! Here’s step-by-step info you can share with the little ones on the formation of a cavity:

  1. Each of your teeth is covered by a durable mineral called enamel. This coating is considered the hardest tissue in the body! But even enamel is vulnerable to attack. It all starts with eating. Imagine having a tasty breakfast, lunch, and dinner that might include your favorite pancakes with syrup for breakfast and warm cornbread with chili for lunch.
  2. Your teeth are naturally protected by saliva, which contains mineral salts that help your enamel stay strong. In addition, drinking water throughout the day helps wash away some of the bacteria that builds up in your mouth when you eat. But much of the sugar and starch from your meals still remain. This is essentially food for bacteria to grow. That’s why brushing your teeth at least twice a day is so important!

  3. Let’s say you forget to brush your teeth that evening. Bacteria will continue to build into the night. The more tasty meals you enjoy and forget to brush away, the more ammunition bacteria have to grow, especially when you consume lots of sugary or starchy foods. Over time, bacteria build up creates very acidic plaque.

  4. As plaque germs eat up sugar, they produce acids that saliva or water can’t wash away so easily. The acids in plaque eat away at the minerals in your tooth enamel.
  5. Early tooth decay occurs when the hard surface of your enamel begins to dissolve and lots of tiny holes appear.
  6. With continual acid build up, these tiny holes get bigger, eventually turning into one big hole. That big hole is a cavity!

Seeing your dentist every six months helps combat cavity formation big-time! Your dentist will remove the plaque that’s built up over time and that may be hard for your toothbrush to reach. Here are more tips for fighting tooth decay at home:

Putting the Brakes on Dental Decay in Kids
Why Dental Sealants Rock
5 Reasons to Brush Twice a Day

Photo (featured): pawpaw67/CC BY-SA 2.0

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