While many people associate sugar with cavities, it's actually a type of bacteria that causes the tooth decay. This bacteria is called streptococcus mutans and it thrives on refined carbohydrates. While there is a host of friendly bacteria in the mouth, when you start feeding this particular strain, it starts to produce acid and it becomes the dominant micro organism in the mouth, says Dr. Roger Briggs, a dentist in Scottsdale, Arizona with Briggs Family Dentistry. Deep areas of decay are formed as a result of this acid attacking the teeth. If we can keep this bacteria from becoming the dominant one in the mouth, then we wouldn't have any issues, he says.
While children are known to having more cavities than adults, Dr. Briggs says that as adults, they can develop generational rooth carries, or decay. He says as we get older we produce less saliva and our immune system finds it harder to fight off infection. The root surface is not protected by enamel so in that area, root decay can form, similar to the rapid decay that forms in children.
Cavities can be a communicable disease, as the bacteria can be passed around, Dr Briggs says. Studies have shown that of children who have a high level of decay, 80% of the time, they're inoculated by that germ from the mother and 20% from the father. It's because the mother is the one who's in more contact with their food and utensils, by touching the food with her tongue to see if it's too hot, for example.
Dr. Roger Briggs is with Briggs Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Scottsdale, Arizona. Dr. Briggs is a leading dental expert with Dentist News Network, providing online, on-demand dental news video content across many dental specialties. Dentist News Network is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.