How Does An Acidic Mouth Cause Cavities

An acidic mouth is a state in which the pH balance of the oral environment leans towards acidity. This can have adverse effects on dental health, such as an increased risk of cavities. Understanding the impact of an acidic mouth is essential to maintaining optimal oral health. Let’s take a closer look!

I. How does an acidic mouth cause cavities?

The real cause of tooth decay is not the sugar itself, but rather the harmful bacteria in the mouth that are stimulated by sugar.

When sugar is consumed, it gives energy to certain bacteria in the mouth, which in turn produce acids that are corrosive to teeth.

These acids weaken teeth and cause cavities. Only when these specific bacteria interact with sugar do cavities form.

This phenomenon was demonstrated by experiments on germ-free rats in the 1950s and 1960s.

These studies also showed that certain types of bacteria are more aggressive than others and produce more acids, thus causing more cavities.

The general acidity of the mouth, caused by an over-multiplication of these acid-producing bacteria, is particularly dangerous, as it encourages the growth of more acidophilic bacteria and the progression of tooth decay.

II. What is the Vipeholm study?

The Vipeholm study carried out in a home for psychiatric patients in Sweden, is a major research project that highlighted the links between sugar and oral health.

Participants in this study lived in closed community conditions, where harmful oral bacteria were certainly present.

When these residents were given sugar, researchers observed and measured the relationship between oral acidity and dental damage.

The graphs from the Vipeholm study demonstrate how sugar consumption causes a drop in acidity in the mouth, leading to tooth deterioration.

The conclusion drawn from this study is that sugar causes an increase in acidity in the mouth, leading to tooth damage.

This acidity is too high for dental safety, and as long as the mouth remains acidic, teeth are damaged and cavities develop.

The study’s diagrams also illustrate how long it takes for saliva to dilute dangerous acids and return the mouth to a safe state.

It takes around thirty minutes for saliva to balance the acidity and make the mouth safe for teeth.

However, what is often overlooked is that this balance can only occur in a mouth with healthy, non-acidic saliva.

This balance cannot occur in a dry mouth without saliva, or in a mouth where the saliva itself is acidic.

This means that the presence of harmful bacteria and the acidity of the mouth play a crucial role in how sugar affects oral health.

III. Differences between cavities and tooth decay

Dental caries and cavities are often confused, but they are not the same thing.

A cavity is a hole resulting from tooth decay, a disease that damages teeth. Tooth decay is a bacterial disease that develops on teeth and throughout the mouth.

This infectious disease attacks and weakens all teeth at once, gradually softening them until they break.

Cavities, on the other hand, are the physical consequences of this disease and generally form in vulnerable areas of the teeth. They don’t appear on a tooth for no reason or at random; they are the direct result of the damage caused by dental caries.

It’s important to understand that filling a cavity does nothing to stop the disease that caused it, which can continue to damage other teeth elsewhere in the mouth.

IV. How do dental caries develop and spread in the mouth?

Dental caries develops and spreads when specific conditions, called “perfect storm conditions”, occur in the mouth.

These conditions deteriorate when harmful bacteria feed on sugar or starch in the diet.

Sugars and starches provide energy for these bacteria, enabling them to multiply and produce acids that make the mouth progressively more acidic.

This acidity attacks and weakens tooth enamel everywhere, but the tooth enamel that is most stressed by chewing will usually be the first to break and form cavities.

V. Why simply fill a cavity doesn’t put an end to dental caries disease?

Placing a filling in a cavity does nothing to stop the dental caries disease that caused it. The disease can continue to damage other teeth in the mouth.

If conditions in the mouth don’t change and the disease isn’t eliminated, one cavity will soon be followed by another.

This can lead to an endless cycle of treatments. Over time, in an unhealthy mouth, the disease continues to attack new fillings, leading to failed fillings, repairs, larger fillings, and eventually root canal treatments and crowns.

VI. How a tooth’s inner structure differs from its outer layer?

Contrary to popular belief, the inside of a tooth is not a solid, hard mass.

On the contrary, it contains soft, living tissue with cells, nerves and blood supply.

Although the outer layer of a tooth may appear hard, it’s not like a row of stones in your mouth.

In reality, the outer enamel of a tooth is a delicate mesh of minerals that can easily be eroded, dissolved and damaged, especially by acidity or improper brushing and polishing.

Protecting tooth enamel is therefore essential to keeping the central part of the tooth healthy and disease-free.

V. Effect of fluoride in an acid mouth

Fluoride plays a crucial role in strengthening tooth enamel, particularly in acidic or damaged mouths.

When saliva is alkaline and contains fluoride, the minerals present in the saliva rapidly form enamel crystals.

Fluoride acts as a catalyst, integrating a small fluoride particle into these crystals, and creating calcium fluorapatite.

These crystals are larger and more perfectly shaped than normal enamel crystals. As a result, enamel formed with these crystals appears smoother, brighter and stronger, more resistant to the acids and wear that can damage teeth.

VI. How does tooth erosion occur in the presence of acid?

In the presence of acid, minerals are removed from the tooth, enamel crystals melt or dissolve, and the internal structure (the skeleton) becomes less dense, with smaller crystals.

Imagine an effervescent tablet melting or dissolving in a glass of water. As the crystals shrink, spaces, or pores, form between each crystal.

These pores fill with liquid, making the enamel less dense and more porous. Porous teeth are more likely to break, chip or crumble.

In addition, porous teeth stain more easily as food and beverage stains seep into their surface.

VII. What are tooth demineralization and remineralization?

Demineralization and remineralization are two key processes in oral health.

Demineralization is the loss of minerals from tooth enamel, often caused by an acidic oral environment.

When the mouth remains acidic for too long, enamel minerals dissolve, leaving a fragile structure that can break down and form a cavity.

Conversely, remineralization is the process of rebuilding tooth enamel.

This occurs naturally, but slowly, in almost everyone’s mouth. Fortunately, remineralization can be accelerated by rinsing with fluoride or regular exposure to xylitol.

This process repairs damaged enamel and can even completely rebuild the tooth, provided repairs begin before the enamel is physically damaged.

VIII. How can porous tooth enamel affect tooth sensitivity and internal nerve health?

Weak or porous tooth enamel can never adequately protect the living cells and nerves inside a tooth.

When enamel is softened by acidity, teeth become sensitive and painful, especially when drinking hot or cold beverages.

The more porous the enamel, the more likely the inside of the tooth is to be damaged.

Nerve damage can be permanent and irreversible, leading to tooth death. When the nerve is damaged, treatment may require root canal therapy and a crown, or extraction and replacement of the tooth.

So keeping the outside of a tooth strong and remineralized is essential not only to avoid pain and decay, but also to prolong the long-term health of the inside of your teeth.

IX. What types of food and drink can have a positive or negative impact on dental health?

Throughout our lives, all the products we consume have an impact on our teeth.

Sometimes, drinks such as sour apple juice, energy drinks, sodas, coffee and beer can damage our teeth.

At other times, our teeth can benefit from mineral-rich water, vegetable juices, dairy products, xylitol and alkaline soups and broths.

The final state of our teeth, whether stained and weak or healthy and strong, results from the constant back-and-forth between damage and natural repair.

Teeth will be sensitive and break if damage outweighs repair. They will be bright and strong if they can regularly rebuild to their full strength.

X. What factors can aggravate dental problems in adolescents, especially those with braces?

In the context of adolescence, a variety of factors can intensify dental problems, especially in those with braces.

For example, habits such as drinking carbonated beverages before bedtime and poor oral hygiene can create dangerous conditions for dental health.

In addition, new braces can make it difficult to close the mouth, leaving front teeth completely exposed and dry.

The hormonal changes typical of adolescence also alter the flow and chemistry of saliva, hindering the natural healing of teeth.

In this dry adolescent mouth, sodas and undiluted acids produced by harmful bacteria can directly destroy teeth, promoting rampant dental disease that attacks gums and tooth enamel throughout the mouth.

Therefore, it’s important to control acidity and improve oral hygiene practices in teenagers, especially those with braces.

XI. Why it’s particularly important to have an adapted oral care routine at night?

A proper night-time oral care routine is particularly important for several reasons.

Firstly, while we sleep, our mouths produce less saliva, making them drier and less able to neutralize acids and fight bacteria.

This creates an environment conducive to bacterial growth and plaque build-up, which can lead to dental problems such as cavities and gum infections.

Secondly, the night is the time when we are most vulnerable to acid attacks. The acids present in the food and drink we consume throughout the day continue to act on our teeth while we sleep.

So it’s crucial to take steps to minimize the effects of these acids and protect our teeth at night.

Finally, a good oral care routine before bed helps to remove food particles and plaque accumulated throughout the day.

This reduces the risk of cavities and gum problems while promoting fresh breath.

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Microbial aspects of frequent intake of products with high sugar concentrations