Ever since your first toothache or trip to the dentist, you’ve probably heard about the dangers cavities present to the health of your teeth. However, just because you’re familiar with a cavity doesn’t mean you know what causes them to form.
Whenever you eat or drink, a sticky bacteria in the mouth called plaque secretes substances that slowly erode away your teeth’s enamel. Failing to practice quality oral hygiene allows plaque the opportunity to wear holes in tooth where bacteria can begin to accumulate. This eventually leads to decay and the formation of a cavity.
Preventing the development of cavities helps ensure your teeth and gums can remain healthy and strong for a lifetime. Unfortunately, dentists have found that many of their patients have conflicting information about the causes of cavities, who gets them, and how to prevent them. To help you understand the basics of cavities, here’s a guide that separates cavity fact from cavity fiction.
Myth: Sugar Causes Cavities
As previously mentioned, plaque actually cause cavities, not sugar. However, plaque uses sugar as a fuel source to produce enamel damaging acids that cause tooth decay and the formation of cavities. Besides brushing and flossing daily to remove built up plaque deposits, the best way to prevent cavities is to reduce the amount of sugar you consume daily.
Remember that carbohydrates are also sugars, so reducing your sugar intake means more than just laying off the cookies and candy bars. Pasta, potatoes, breads, and a variety of other fresh fruits and vegetables are also considered carbs, so make sure to choose wisely when selecting what to eat.
Fact: Acidic Foods Cause Cavities
An acid, by definition, eats through substances. So whether the acid in your mouth comes from plaque or the pineapple you ate for lunch, both can cause enamel erosion and cavities.
Additionally, eating foods high in acid, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, soy sauce, etc., raise the acidity level of your mouth. This causes your tooth enamel to weaken, which makes the damage caused by plaque even worse. To prevent this from occurring, you should consider drinking a glass of milk or eating a piece of cheese following every meal that contains a lot of acidic foods. Dairy products contain natural neutralizing agents that help offset mouth acidity.
Myth: Only Kids Get Cavities
Over the last 20 years, the number of children with cavities has actually dropped in half thanks to advances make in pediatric dentistry, dental sealants, and the widespread availability of fluoridated water. In actuality, the age group that has seen the biggest increase in the number of calories is seniors due to the increasing number of prescription medications that cause dry mouth as a symptom. Saliva acts as the bodies natural defense against plaque acids, and individuals suffering from dry mouth have an increased risk of suffering from decay.
Fact: Cavities Frequently Form Between Teeth
Despite what that amalgam filling in your back molar might suggest, the most common place for cavities to form is actually between your teeth. Because only 49 percent of Americans floss daily, according to a survey conducted by the American Dental Association, the space between teeth develops cavities most often because plaque and lingering food particles are allowed to buildup and cause decay. This is why individuals who floss daily significantly reduce their risk of developing cavities when compared to those who do not.
Myth: You’ll Know When You Have a Cavity
When it relates to your oral health, by the time you experience any kind of pain or discomfort, the problem has advanced past just a simply cavity. The pain most people associate with cavities is actually nerve damage caused by advancing decay. By the time a tooth starts to hurt, not only has a cavity already formed, but the long-term health of the tooth is also now in jeopardy.