You brush your teeth religiously, eat a reasonably healthy diet, you floss at least some of the time, and you regularly use a mouthwash. You use a fluoride based toothpaste. You are reasonably good at maintaining a regular schedule of dental appointments. In fact, you follow all the mainstream advice on dental care. However, when you get to the dentist, there is always some dental decay, always a filling or cavity that needs attention. When you do get a filling, it often needs a larger filling, then a really large filling, followed by a crown and root canal. If the root canal fails, then the only thing left is an implant, a large gap in your gums, or some kind of bridge device.
You in turn get more and frustrated. You purchase bigger and more powerful sonic toothbrushes, bigger tubs of mouthwash, and start brushing your teeth after lunch at work. No joy. Nothing sees to work. You talk to your dentist, who just shrugs and says it happens.
What's going on? Very simply, dental decay and gum disease is an infection, "an invasion by pathogenic microorganisms of a bodily part in which the conditions are favorable for growth, production of toxins, and resulting injury to tissue." (Webster's II New Riverside University Dictionary).
What are these microorganisms? Pathogens of bacterial, protozoan, viral or fungal origin have been implicated as causal factors in periodontal disease. One strain in particular has been identified called Streptococcus mutans. Streptococcus mutans, and Streptococcus Sobrinus are the bacteria that cause the majority of tooth decay and gum disease. Streptococcus mutans is a heterotrophic organism which simply means that it must live off another organism by eating another organism or using them as a host. The human oral cavity is the host of S. mutans.
The bacteria feeds by metabolizing sucrose to lactic acid, causing a change in the ph to become acidic, and sticks to the tooth in the form of plaque. The combination of the plaque in an acid environment sticking onto the tooth and below into the gums causes the highly mineralized tooth enamel to break down until a small hole is created. Once the enamel has been penetrated, the Streptococcus mutans really get to work. It subsists on a diverse group of carbohydrates, and once in the cozy warm confines of your nce cozy tooth, starts to party like a rock star to … More