decay has declined among young children as a group, it can
still be a problem for individual children, and even teens
and adults. Thatís because plaque, a sticky film of
bacteria, constantly forms on your teeth. When you eat or
drink foods containing sugars or starches, the bacteria in
plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The
stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with
your teeth and after many such attacks, the enamel can break
down and a cavity forms.
Tooth decay is
a destruction of the tooth enamel. It occurs when foods
containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as milk,
pop, raisins, cakes or candy are frequently left on the
teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these
foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time,
these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay.
Aren't Cavities Just Kid's Stuff?
No. Changes that occur with aging make
cavities an adult problem, too. Recession of the gums away
from the teeth, combined with an increased incidence of
periodontal (gum) disease, can expose tooth roots to plaque.
Tooth roots are covered with cementum, a softer tissue than
enamel. They are susceptible to decay and are more sensitive
to touch and to hot and cold. The majority of people over
age 50 have tooth-root decay.
Decay around the edges, or margins, of
fillings is also common to older adults. Because many older
adults lacked benefits of fluoride and modern preventive
dental care when they were growing up, they often have a
number of dental fillings. Over the years, these fillings
may weaken and tend to fracture and leak around the edges.
Bacteria accumulate in these tiny crevices causing acid to
build up which leads to decay.