Most everyone in their lives will experience at least one cavity. Depending on the location and severity of tooth decay, or a cavity, you may feel mild to moderate pain, extreme pain or no pain at all. In fact, when caught early, many patients don’t know they have a cavity until their regular dental exam.
So, why do you get tooth decay? The reasons why people get cavities can be boiled down to six main culprits:
- Poor oral hygiene: Not brushing and flossing your teeth properly and regularly can cause a build-up of plaque on your tooth surfaces, which attacks the enamel (your tooth’s protective coating).
- Plaque formation: Sugary foods cause the plaque on your teeth to produce acids, eventually creating a hole in your tooth (a cavity).
- Eating and drinking: What you eat plays a large role in your dental health. It’s best to rinse food particles from your teeth between meals and brush your teeth after meals, if possible. Some of the biggest food culprits are carbohydrates and sugary foods, such as milk, dry cereal, dried fruit, soda, cookies, hard candy, caramel, taffy, raisins, cake, and other sweets.
- Plaque bacteria and acids: Just as we have good bacteria on our skin and in our gut, we also have colonies of good bacteria in our mouths. However, when these bacteria digest carbohydrates, it creates an acid that wears away your enamel.
- Dry mouth: Saliva performs a variety of functions in the mouth, including washing away plaque. If you have dry mouth (lack of normal saliva), it creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and tooth decay.
- Medical issues: Other medical issues may play a role in your oral health. For example, certain types of cancer treatments may expose your head and neck to radiation, which can change the makeup of your saliva and promote tooth decay.
Now that you know what causes tooth decay, it’s also important to know how to prevent it. We’re not saying you should avoid cake and cookies for the rest of your life. That’s not practical. Nor is it fair. Hey, we like cookies too! However, if you’d like to keep your teeth healthy as long as possible, there are a few things you can do to swing the odds in your favor.
- Brush at least twice daily with a fluoride-based toothpaste (preferably after each meal and before bed).
- Floss daily using dental floss, a floss pick, or another interdental cleaner.
- Use a fluoride-containing mouthwash daily. Some may also kill bacteria along with plaque.
- Eat nutritious, well-balanced meals every day. It’s OK to cheat occasionally, though it’s best to avoid sugary and carbohydrate snacks as much as possible.
- Visit your dentist regularly to catch any tooth decay early.
- Check with your dentist about supplemental fluoride, dental sealants, and fluoridated water. (Some communities already add fluoride to their drinking water. So, check with your local authorities first.)
At Peace Haven Family Dentistry, we want you to experience the best dental health possible. That’s why we’re here to help with the care and maintenance of your teeth!
We’re always happy to help answer your questions. Contact us today.
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