The Scary Truth about Cavities: Tips to Help Prevent Tooth Decay
In many ways, cavities are a natural part of life. For example, if you don’t get enough vitamin C in your diet (which is technically impossible because it’s an essential vitamin that our bodies can’t produce on their own), you may also be prone to developing scurvy.
If you don’t practice good oral hygiene — especially as a child — you are more likely to develop tooth decay or cavities as an adult. In fact, the vast majority of adults today have some sort of carious lesion, or cavity in their teeth. But why? And how can we prevent them in the future? Read on for everything you need to know about cavities!
What is a Cavity?
A cavity is an infectious lesion on the tooth’s surface caused by bacterial demineralization of the tooth’s enamel. The enamel is the part of the tooth that’s most sensitive. Enamel is the shiny, brittle substance covering the front of the tooth. The softer, yellowish dentin underneath forms the core of the tooth.
A cavity happens when foods, beverages, and plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms at the gum line, stay on the teeth long enough to erode the enamel, and eventually, the dentin. A tooth decay can progress to a full-blown infection, which may eventually lead to tooth loss if left untreated.
Tips to Help Prevent Cavities
- Since bacteria are what causes tooth decay, you should brush and floss twice a day. Regular brushing and flossing removes bacteria before they cause any damage.
- Avoid sugary snacks and drinks. Bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar, so eating foods that are high in sugar, like soda, candy, and cookies, makes tooth decay more likely to occur.
- Be sure to schedule regular appointments with a dentist. Not only do dental check-ups allow for early detection of tooth decay, but they also prevent more serious dental issues from forming later on.
- Get adequate sleep every night. While it’s widely known that not getting enough sleep can negatively impact your mental and physical health, it’s less discussed that sleep deprivation can also increase your risk for developing cavities.
- Stay stress-free. You may have heard that too much stress can cause tooth decay. This is because stress triggers the release of cortisol, which causes an increase in blood sugar levels.
The Scary Truth about cavities: They’re usually not your fault!
Even though cavities are a common dental issue, they are rarely caused by poor dental hygiene. In fact, poor dental hygiene only accounts for 10% of all cases. What’s more, the other 90% of cavities are caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors, such as:
1. Poor Diet
Certain medications can reduce saliva production, which disrupts the protective cleaning process that saliva provides for teeth. As a result, bacterial plaque can build up on teeth and cause cavities.
Young children have not yet developed the level of saliva production necessary for a healthy oral environment. In addition, young children have a tendency to eat more sugary foods compared to adults.
3 Root Causes for Tooth Decay
- Bacterial demineralization: Bacteria in your mouth feed off of sugars, starches, and proteins, converting these compounds into acids. When these acids come into contact with your teeth, they can lead to tooth decay.
- Glycation : Sugar molecules bind to proteins in your saliva and blood, forming advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). AGEs can then bind to tooth enamel, causing tooth decay.
- Oxalic acid: Certain foods, such as spinach and rhubarb, contain oxalic acid, a chemical that can combine with calcium in your saliva to form calcium oxalate. Calcium oxalate can then bind to tooth enamel, causing tooth decay.
Conclusion: Cavities Treatment
Cavities can be a scary thought for most people. Fortunately, there are ways to help prevent them from occurring. You just need to make sure to maintain good oral hygiene and avoid sugary foods and drinks.
If you already have a cavity, visit your dentist as soon as possible to get it treated. From there, you’ll be able to prevent further tooth decay from taking place. And don’t worry: although cavities are common, they’re also very easy to treat.