Many generations of healthcare providers have believed that dental bacteria cause tooth decay. But why is there still no consensus on the matter? And what makes dental caries difficult to treat and prevent?
What Are The Two Theories About Bacteria That Cause Tooth Decay?
The majority of dental care providers strongly believe that certain bacteria type are the root causes of the most widespread, painful, and discomforting dental condition known as tooth decay.
Less than half a century ago, healthcare providers widely supported the idea of the French microbiologist, Louis Pasteur, that the bacteria that cause tooth decay come from outside the body, just like those that cause the common cold or fever.
However, unlike the fever-triggering germs, those causing dental caries were thought to be incapable of mutating.
Later, however, medical experts observed and scientifically proved that the bacteria that cause tooth decay actually live in our oral cavities all the time. There are certain triggers that cause them to start multiplying and literally breaking through the defense barriers of the oral cavity.
What are the Arguments that Support the Bacterial Nature of Tooth Decay?
Initially, the theory declaring that bacteria cause tooth decay was supported with documented observations that dental caries is actually a contagious condition. This explained the tendency for the whole family to suffer from recurring dental cavities.
What Is the “Anti-Bacterial” Theory?
Despite the theory that it is dental bacteria that cause tooth decay, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention support, there is a small group of medical practitioners who oppose this.
The latter healthcare scientists believe that the multiplication of active oral bacteria might be only a symptom of tooth decay, but not its actual cause. This theory is supported by the observation that bacteria and germs can usually be eliminated by antibiotic medicine, yet even the strongest antibiotics fail to kill the bacteria that cause tooth decay. This is a really strong argument to think about.
What Hinders the Action of Anti-Tooth Decay Antibiotics?
As the inability of antibiotic medicine to kill the bacteria that cause tooth decay is a rather strong argument, it took rather a long time for supporters of the bacterial theory to reveal what actually hinders the antibiotics’ action.
The reason is that dental caries can be caused by oral bacteria of different type. This makes some antibiotics just harmless in the face of certain aggressive germs.
Just a few decades ago, wide-spectrum antibiotics were used to kill the most aggressive bacteria that cause tooth decay. However, these antibiotics have a complex negative impact on the entire human body, especially affecting the immune and digestive systems.
Nowadays, medical technologies allow running special medical tests to determine the exact bacteria type which cause the disease in each case.
Consequently, a treatment plan directly aimed at eliminating the specific bacteria causing tooth decay enables dental care professionals to considerably lower the medicine’s negative impact on their patients’ dental and general health.
What Aspects Remain Unclear?
Even though modern dentistry has no doubt that there are dental bacteria that cause tooth decay, the issue of exactly which type of bacteria is a root trigger of the disease in each case, is still problematic.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, generally two widespread bacteria species cause dental caries.
How Do Lactobacillus Acidophilus Bacteria Cause the Tooth Decay?
According to the latest medical opinion, lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria, which are normally found in the saliva, cause dental caries. These bacteria build up dental plaque when interacting with food debris and proteins. They first digest sugars and easily broken-down foods, and then excrete acids.
What is more, the lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria continue to excrete acids on a certain tooth area and, finally, cause damage to the enamel and consequent formation of dental cavities, or even the death of affected tooth.
How do Streptococcus Mutans Bacteria Cause Tooth Decay?
Similarly to the lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria, the streptococcus mutans excrete the acids that rapidly soften the affected teeth enamel, form the cavities, and gradually kill the teeth nerves.
But this type of bacteria that cause tooth decay feeds exclusively on the sugars. And finally, these bugs have much wider subtype spectrum, when compares with the lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria, which obviously hinders the tooth decay treatment.
What Causes the Activity?
As I have already mentioned, the intake of sugary foods is the root cause for the increase of both types of bacteria that cause tooth decay, since it is the breeding source for both of them. Healthcare providers also recommend cutting down on processed foods, since these are particularly easy for the bacteria to digest.
In addition, individuals who do not take enough vitamins and minerals have reduced oral cavity barriers, and this makes them additionally vulnerable to the bacteria that cause tooth decay.
How to Reduce Activity of Bacteria that Cause Tooth Decay
Your dentist’s drilling out of the infected part of a tooth and replacing it with filling does not help curb the activity of the bacteria that induce tooth decay. The best way to reduce their activity is through a healthy diet and reducing the amount of sugar and the number of times you consume sugar on an everyday basis.
Not everyone can pass a day without sugar; if you need sugar in your coffee and tea or juices, make sure you rinse your mouth as soon as you can to help get rid of the acid in your mouth.
Reducing your sugar consumption reduces the percentage of Streptococcus Mutans against other mouth bacteria. Substituting Xylitol for sugar helps reduce the number of harmful bacteria in your mouth, too.
Besides reducing sugar, you need to re-mineralize and strengthen your tooth enamel. This is possible by healthy eating and avoiding manufactured and processed foods that are full of calories but are low in nutrition. Insufficient nutrition through your food leaves your body using the nutrition meant for your bones and teeth, which in turn weakens your tooth structure and increases your susceptibility to cavities.
You also need to reduce the amount of plaque in your mouth to stop bacteria that cause tooth decay. Using a Miswak stick or regular brushing of your teeth helps reduce the plaque in your mouth.
Miswak, however, is a better option as your toothbrush stores lots of bacteria that can trigger tooth decay, while Miswak is antibacterial and more effective than regular toothbrushes.
Oil pulling also helps reduce plaque, as it prevents the buildup of plaque as oil reaches in between teeth and under gums to eliminate any bacteria in these hard-to-reach places when you swish it in your mouth.
Oil pulling is a practice originating in Ayurvedic medicine: it involves swilling oil, usually coconut, sesame or sunflower oil, around your mouth for twenty minutes.
Finally, remember that, even though dental caries has been proven to have a bacterial origin, you must never take antibiotics without your healthcare provider’s prescription. This can be done only after the exact type of bacteria causing tooth decay is professionally determined by your dentist.