Cavity prevention is one of the primary reasons people see their dentist. Regular cleanings and check-ups keep tabs on the development of this common dental problem when combined with steady at-home care. While your dentist is able to do a lot to help supplement your at-home care, complete prevention of cavities has long been beyond their reach. Recent innovations in dentistry have revealed techniques that may spell the beginning of the end for the oldest problem in dentistry. It all starts with understanding the role of bacteria in our mouths.
What Dental Science Understands About The Development of Cavities
In spite of all the research that’s been done into the subject, there’s an immense amount left to learn about the formation of cavities. What is known is that the bacteria Streptococcus mutans is one of the primary contributors to the formation of plaque, tartar, and cavities. Cavities are such a prevalent problem that over 90% of everyone over the age of 20 will have had one or more cavities during their childhood. Part of what’s left to discover about cavity formation is how this bacteria interacts with and impacts the microflora in our mouths and what can be done to stop it in its tracks without creating other problems.
The changes and issues that develop in our mouths as a part of this bacteria’s lifecycle are well documented. When cavities develop, they tend to follow the following pattern:
- White Spots Formations: As the enamel begins to break down or demineralize, white spot lesions tend to form on the surface of the teeth. These can also appear as part of over-fluoridation, but more often, it’s the first sign of cavity development.
- Enamel Degradation: The breakdown of enamel due to acids produced by these bacteria creates vulnerabilities in the tooth that can give bacteria access to the softer material underneath.
- Dentin Decay: Once it penetrates the enamel, bacteria often goes on to attack the dentin layer. This can lead to pain, sensitivity, and greater degrees of decay related damage.
- Pulp Infections: After having penetrated the dentin, bacteria can make their way to the pulp, where an infection can form. This can lead to serious pain and the need for a root canal to be performed to manage the results.
- Formation of Abscesses: Once an infection has set in its possible for bacteria to infect the root and creates pustules known as abscesses in the gumline. These pockets can damage the jawbone and other tissues of the mouth.
These changes are all created as part of the life cycle of the mutans bacteria. All current techniques of eliminating this bacteria would also involve the destruction of the other healthy bacteria that live in our mouths. As a result, oral hygiene, professional cleanings, and more advanced dental techniques are used to manage cavities when they occur.
The Possibility of a Cavity-Free Future
All that being said, you may wonder what hope there is for eliminating cavities entirely. It starts with a recent discovery reported by the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry wherein a substance known as a cerium oxide nanoparticle solution offers hope. This substance has been revealed to eliminate biofilm by up to 40%, as well as providing protection against the mutans bacteria specifically. While 40% is a far cry from total elimination, it’s an important first step on the way to a cavity-free future.