6 Things Everyone Should Know About Cavities

1. A cavity starts with a tiny hole

A dental cavity starts as tiny hole in the enamel of your tooth. Enamel is the hardest substance in your body.  Bacteria in your mouth attack the enamel on your teeth, and eventually the bacteria can eat a small hole in the enamel.  Once the bacteria are through the enamel, they get to the next layer of the tooth which is called dentin.  It is much softer than enamel and the bacteria turn it into mush  To save the tooth, a dentist removes the soft area of the tooth and replaces it with either amalgam or composite filling material.

2. Try Chewing Sugar Free Gum or Eating Xylitol Mints

Not everyone carries a toothbrush with them wherever they go!  So if you can’t brush after drinking anything but water, or eating/ snacking on food or candy, chew on sugar-free gum or xylitol mints.   Sugar free gum contains xylitol.  Xylitol has been shown to reduce cavities but fighting the cavity-causing bacteria, and it helps to prevent the formation of plaque on the teeth.  (See our blog on xylitol). The evidence is so strong that organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry have made statements supporting the use of xylitol gums and mints.

3. It’s not just about sugar

Research into cavities reveals it’s not just sugar that makes plaque develop on teeth.    Acidic food actually changes the pH in our mouths—and that contributes to cavities.  Most people have seen the experiment showing what Coca Cola does to the enamel of teeth.  The acid eats through the enamel, providing access to the dentin (softer area of the tooth).   What is acidic? Beverages are the top offender.  Sugar combined with caffeine is the worst.  So caffeinated soft drinks, energy drinks and sweetened coffees and teas are major cavity creators.   See our blog on “What are the Worst Drinks for Your Teeth”.

4. Snacks linger

Enjoyed that sweet latte?  That tasty bagel?  It may have only taken you 10 minutes to consume, but the impact on your teeth lasts for three hours. That’s how long the pH in your mouth is changed after you drink or eat, and how long bacteria have a chance to build up plaque and work away at your enamel.  Drinking a glass of water, brushing your teeth, chewing gum or having a xylitol mint can help to restore the pH in your mouth, and prevent damage to your teeth.

5. Older Children and Teens are at risk

Children and teens are especially at risk for developing cavities Why? Because they love energy drinks and snacking.  Remember, if you eat or drink almost anything, the impact on your teeth lasts for approximately 3 hours.  So, if they snack frequently during the day, and combine that with pop or energy drinks (and even fruit drinks), there is a constant sugar/acidic attack on their teeth throughout the whole day.  Meanwhile, no longer under the constant watch of parents, they often let their brushing and flossing habits slide.

6. It shouldn’t hurt—at first

Cavities, in the early stages, do not usually hurt at all.  It’s only when the decay goes deeper into a tooth that pain may present.  Once it gets very deep into a tooth, and presses on nerves, it can be very painful and hurt constantly.  If you get regular dental exams/check-ups with X-rays, your dentist should be able to nab any cavities at an early stage and do a filling – eliminating more damage to your tooth, pain and more costly dental treatment.

This entry was posted in It's Your Health, Oral Health and Overall Health, Oral Hygiene, Other Tips, Prevention and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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