Understanding and Preventing Dental Decay
Understanding and preventing dental decay involves understanding the characteristics of bacteria in the mouth. There are over 700 different bacteria in the mouth and only a few contribute to dental decay 3. The few contribute to decay when you eat carbohydrates consisting of sugar, they eat the same products and excrete acid. This creates acid in your mouth that removes the mineral from the enamel of your teeth and in time causes decay.1
Acid in our mouth occurs by consuming drinks and foods that are acid in the acid-alkaline range. See the enclosed illustrations of pH, of different foods, mouth rinses, and their pH; this will aid in understanding pH and acids.
After teeth are cleaned, saliva forms a protein plaque on the teeth. Bacteria accumulate on this plaque and form a colony. In less than 12 hours they form a hard protective covering over themselves and now are called a biofilm, or plaque. This hard covering is most difficult to penetrate with antibiotics, mouth rinses, toothpastes,1 etc. Therefore, we need to remove the bacteria before they form the hardened crust over themselves and become a biofilm. Cleaning the mouth morning and before going to bed will aid in reducing biofilm formation.
The growth speed of some bacteria is amazing; E. coli organism will produce over 1000 progeny or offspring in 3 hours and over 1 million in 7 hours. The doubling time varies not only with the species, but also in the nutrient consumed, the temperature, and the pH 2.
The individual that snacks or drinks sugar sodas frequently is providing the carbohydrates with sugar or nutrients the bacteria consume, and they excrete lots of acid. It requires 15 to 30 minutes for the normal saliva to neutralize this acid. 4 When snacking occurs throughout the day, this acidic condition alters the balance of bacteria in the biofilm to more acid producing and acid loving bacteria (as mutans Streptococcus, and lactobacillus). The lowered pH for long periods of time causes the death of the healthy bacteria that require the pH to be above 7. The healthy bacteria aid in neutralizing the saliva and shortening the demineralization of enamel which aids in reducing dental decay 3.
To change the bacteria flora in the mouth back to having a balance of bacteria above and below a pH of 7 requires changing some habits that provide the nutrients for the acid loving bacteria. The frequent consumption of sugar products through drinks or food can result in sugar altering this balance of bacteria in the mouth.
Large amount of sugar consumed releases endorphins in the body combining with other chemicals results in a surge of energy. Once someone mentally connects sugar with providing energy and a feel-good feeling, they become dependent on it. When they become tired, depressed, in a bad mood they seek sugar for a lift. Eventually, there is little control over avoiding sugary foods, and a sugar addiction is developed. This is a habit that must be addressed to prevent dental decay and gaining weight. The sugar habit can be broken in a two to three weeks period. 5
To make the change to preventing dental decay look at the pH of the frequent foods or products you have been consuming between the meals. This can be done by looking at the enclosed “Approximate pH of Selected Foods,” also note the pH of the rinses in the “Acidity Index of Common Mouthwashes.” Make the necessary changes to reduce the frequent and long periods of acid. It will take time to change a habit, however, until consumption of low pH products is changed, neutralize the acid with various acid neutralizing products:
CariFree CTx3 rinse it has pH Neutralization, fluoride.
CariFree CTx4 Gel 5000—it has pH Neutralization, fluoride, and hydroxyapatite that promotes remineralization of enamel.
These products can be purchased on Amazon or at our office. Other products to neutralize the mouth acid; Flush water in the mouth 2-3 times to reduce the acid. Or one teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water, chew xylol gum, eat a carrot, stick of celery etc.
Preventing dental decay involves understanding the characteristics of the bacteria in the mouth and making changes to stop the decay.
- Marsh, Phillip D. “Dental Plaque as a Biofilm; The significance of pH in Health and caries” Compendium, March 2009, Vol 30 No 2
- Levinson, Warren, “Review of Medical Microbiology and Immunology” McGraw Hill, 14 ed, p15
- Kutsch, V Kim, “A guide for managing carries for patients and practitioners” Balance, 2 ed, p1-7
- Kutsch, V Kim, “ A guide for managing carries for patients and practitioners” Balance 2 ed p 12