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Double whammy

Sometimes life isn’t fair. That’s how it works with cavities. As I’ve mentioned before, a cavity is just a hole that acid eats in your tooth.

“Acid, you say?” Yup. Acid is what causes cavities.

“Well,” you say, “it’s not like I eat acid or something. How does this happen? Where does the acid come from?”

That, my friend, is a very good question.

The acid in your mouth comes from two sources. Bacterial acids and dietary acids. Bacterial acids work kind of like this:

  1. you eat something sugary
  2. acid producing bacteria in your mouth grab some of this sugar as you’re eating it
  3. they eat this sugary stuff and produce lactic acid as a waste product
  4. the lactic acid lowers the pH in a local area and begins to break down/eat away tooth structure

The term dentists use for this eating away by acid is demineralization. The acid acts on the hard surfaces of your teeth and leaches out the calcium and other minerals leaving a little hole. This acid attack isn’t simply a one way street. Your saliva acts to repair this demineralization and in most cases is able to fix it before an actual hole in the surface of the tooth forms. However, in some cases where a lot of acid is produced, a hole in the surface of the tooth can form that cannot be fixed by saliva. Once a hole like this has formed it’s irreversible and must be fixed with a filling or a crown.

Dietary acids are the second source of acid in your mouth. Many foods contain acids. Citrus fruit, tomatoes, some beans and nuts can contain some acid. However, the biggest problem for your teeth is acid containing drinks. Sodas, energy drinks and other carbonated drinks contain carbonic and phosphoric acids. These drinks cause a huge whole-mouth drop in pH with every sip. The acid in pop alone can cause serious tooth problems, but many of them also include a LOT of sugar. And you remember what we just said about sugar above, right? (sugar–>bacterial yum yums–>acid production)

That’s why pop is a double whammy. It has a very low pH and it has lots of sugar, which the bugs in your mouth can turn into acid. So be careful with pop. It’s better to drink less of it (or none of it).

Are you a pop drinker and worried about your teeth? If you’d like to find out more or just need a dentist in Saginaw, we’d love help! In fact, we’d like to be your Saginaw dentist! Feel free to call the office at (989) 799-9133, request an appointment online or email me at alan@meadfamilydental.com.