What really is tooth decay?
The definition of decay is “to rot or decompose through the action of bacteria and fungi”. Throughout the day, there are about 80-120 Billion bacteria of 600 different species in your saliva. Of all these organisms, only one is the major cavity causing mastermind. Strep Mutans. Everything was going so well, until he showed up to the party, right? S. Mutans was actually one of the first inhabitants in your mouth. You were infected with it by your mother and family at birth. First, through breast feeding, and then as you got older, your parents and siblings gave you food out of their mouths. Thanks family!
If everyone has S. Mutans, why don’t we all have rotten teeth? Enamel. If it wasn’t for the hardest substance in the human body, we would all have rotten teeth. What is enamel? It’s a mineralized complex made primarily of calcium, phosphate, magnesium, and fluoride. It’s basically the armor coating of your teeth. Although, your teeth are not solid masses. They are made of a highly complex system of billions crystalline tubes. Below your hard enamel, you have a soft, nutrient rich material called dentin, and deep within that, a bundle of nerves and blood vessels. Actually, teeth are highly developed nerve tissue! Mind blown. So how does something so strong get taken out by a little bacterium?
It all comes down to acidity. The Ph (the power of hydrogen to mess stuff up) of your mouth determines if your enamel will weaken or get stronger. Your enamel, like your body, and well, the universe, is dynamic. It is always in a state of flux, change. Your enamel goes through a process of mineralization to form itself. Adding minerals, is called remineralization, loss of minerals is demineralization. Your teeth are constantly going through this process. At the end of the day, as long as you are in a state of net remineralization, your enamel will be free of decay.
S. Mutans is the main culprit. Obviously, most processed foods have the highest amounts. It metabolizes sugar to produce energy. Sugar isn’t, by itself a bad thing, the bacterial metabolic waste product, Lactic Acid (LA), is. LA has a Ph of 2.0. Which is 10000 times more acidic than water (with a Ph of 7). When enamel is in the presence of any acid with the ph of 5.5 or less, the calcium and phosphate is removed out of it and that space will be filled by S. Mutans. This is how tooth decay begins. Once inside the enamel, the bacteria continues to populate. Eventually the weakened enamel around the bacteria will “cavitate” inward, hence the name “cavities”.
Even without the consumption of processed foods or sugar, you may still be promoting a demineralizing acidic environment (below Ph 5.5) through common beverages. Such as: Hot brewed Coffee/black tea Ph 5, Sparkling water Ph 5, Kombucha 4.2, fruit juice 4-2.5, Diet soda 2.5, Redbull 2.4, Gatorade 2.3. The list goes on. Check out my youtube video of beverages I PH tested for more info.