What’s in Your Mouth?
To understand what happens when your teeth decay, it’s helpful to know what’s in your mouth naturally. Here are a few of the elements:
- Saliva -Saliva is a watery constituent found in the mouth of all organisms. Saliva constitutes 99.5% water and 0.5% of electrolytes, glycoproteins, mucus, enzymes and antibacterial compounds. They play a role in breaking down food particles entrapped within dental crevices, protecting teeth from bacterial decay.Furthermore, saliva serves a lubricative function, wetting food and permitting the initiation of swallowing, and protecting the mucosal surfaces of the oral cavity from desiccation. They reduce the level of acids in the mouth thus preventing tooth decay.
- Plaque – Plaque is a substance that is pale yellow in colour and develops naturally on teeth. Plaque is a type of biofilm. It contains large numbers of closely packed bacteria, components taken from saliva, and bits of food. Also in the mix are bacterial byproducts and white blood cells. Plaque grows when bacteria attach to the tooth and begin to multiply. Plaque starts forming right after a tooth is cleaned. At first, the biofilm is soft enough to come off by using the fingernail. However, it starts to harden within 48 hours, and in about 10 days the plaque becomes dental calculus (tartar), which is hard and difficult to remove.
- Calculus – Plaque absorbs minerals from saliva and these minerals form crystals and harden into calculus. Then new plaque forms on top of existing calculus. This new layer can also become hard. Calculus thus causes periodontitis and leads to other gingival problems.
- Bacteria – We have many types of bacteria in our mouths. Some bacteria are good; they help control destructive bacteria. When it comes to decay, Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacilli are the bacteria that cause the most damage to teeth.