As a dentist in Boulder, I’ve heard the phrase “I have soft teeth” more times than I can count. Most dental patients who describe their teeth in this manner, no matter how they care for their teeth, believe that cavities are unavoidable. They feel this will send them down that inevitable road of dental office visits, fillings, and quite possibly, a root canal, crowns, and cosmetic dentistry work. If you fall into this category, don’t despair. Our advanced dentistry office in Boulder is here to help clear up some misconceptions.
Let’s begin by defining “soft teeth”, an oxymoron of sorts in my opinion. Protecting the sensitive underlying structures of a tooth is enamel, the hard outer layer of the tooth that makes it resistant to wear and decay. Tooth enamel is made up of mineralized calcium phosphate, the hardest material produced by the human body. By their very nature, all teeth are really quite hard. Tooth decay, or a cavity, is a process involving harmful acids which act to dissolve part of a tooth’s enamel. It is helpful to think of tooth decay as rusting metal. Metal is hard, but it can still rust as a result of chemical damage. The acid in our mouth acts as a chemical agent to break down teeth, but where does this acid come from?
The answer, not from acidic drinks like soda and coffee, but from bacteria in the mouth. As part of their normal metabolism, all bacteria produce acid, and they need to ingest sugar to produce this acid. As discussed in a recent blog blog entitled “Why do I Have Gum Disease, and My Husband Doesn’t?”, plaque is formed by a glob of bacteria. When plaque sits on a tooth for more than 24 hours, and if you’ve eaten anything with sugar in it, acid will be produced, and the decay process will have begun. The bacteria formed acid will literally work to dissolve your teeth where plaque is found. Without proper oral hygiene including regular brushing and flossing, the longer that glob of bacteria remains on a tooth slowly dissolving it away.
So, what can we learn from this? The enamel disorder called “soft teeth” is a problem for many dental patients, but don’t despair. Soft teeth are in fact, really very hard, but may be more susceptible to decay from a build-up of plaque and resulting acid damage. As one of the most respected and best dentists in Boulder, I can tell you that you can still avoid cavities. Your teeth are still hard enough to resist damage. Practice good oral hygiene including brushing and flossing after meals. Supplementing your diet with extra calcium helps, and make sure your teeth are exposed to ample fluoride typically found in tap water and many mouthwashes. But by far and away, a comprehensive dentistry plan including a preventative dental care program is your best ally.
There are many affordable treatment options available today to keep you from losing your teeth to decay, even if you are more susceptible as a result of soft teeth. We have special programs in our office to attack this disease at its cause. You do not have to live with cavities, or the fear of getting cavities.