Everyone comes down with the common cold at some point in their life, making it the most common disease of all. But, did you know that tooth decay—also known as “cavities”—is the second most prevalent disease in the world? In fact, much like everyone gets a cold, almost 100 percent of adults around the world have had at least one dental cavity, according to the World Health Organization.
And all of those cavities help make filling cavities one of the most common dental procedures performed by dentists. But it shouldn’t be that way. Cavities are more preventable than the common cold and can be kept at bay by proper brushing, flossing and other regular oral health maintenance measures.
What Causes Cavities?
Cavities are caused by acids released by the bacteria in your mouth. Just like we have waste when we eat, so do the bacteria in our mouths. They eat the same food we do, but they produce acid as waste. When the bacteria’s acidic waste product adheres to the teeth and its enamel by mixing with proteins in saliva and food particles to create a layer of plaque, it begins to eat away at the underlying tooth enamel. Given enough time, the acidic plaque will eat a hole through the enamel causing a cavity.
The severity of potential cavity forming acid attacks on your teeth is dependent upon numerous factors. For example, plaque formation is enhanced by the types of food eaten, with sugary food items proving to be more easily digestible by the bacteria, and thus more likely to lead to plaque. Healthy green foods, though, are not so easily digested by bacteria, making them less likely to lead to plaque formation. Saliva also plays a key role, in that it helps dilute the acid. However, saliva production is limited during the sleep cycle, which makes the overnight hours prime time for plaque formation, and why dental health professionals strongly urge brushing and flossing before going to bed at night. The type of bacteria in one’s mouth also plays a role in plaque formation, which makes some people just naturally more prone to plaque formation and resultant cavities. We generally receive bacteria from our parents, which begin to colonize our mouth as soon as the first tooth comes in.
How to Prevent Cavities From Forming
The key to preventing cavities lies with stopping the plaque from forming or disrupting it before the acids can do too much damage. Those who eat healthy foods with lots of green vegetables have a head start with this task, as plaque formation will likely be slower to develop. Since we have to eat, the best means for preventing cavities lies with regular brushing and flossing. This brushing and flossing dislodges any plaque that has developed and allows time for the tooth to re-calcify those areas that have sustained initial damage. As previously noted, brushing and flossing is most important before bedtime. You can think of cleaning your teeth like washing a car. Brushing cleans the top and the front and back ends of the car and flossing cleans the sides of the car. It is important to clean all parts of your teeth.
Along with brushing and flossing, the use of fluoride, whether in your toothpaste or in a rinse, can also ward off cavity formation. Fluoride is absorbed by teeth and bonds with the enamel crystalline structure, making the teeth more resistant to attacks from the acids in subsequent plaque formations. Be sure that you brush and floss prior to using a mouthwash. Contrary to commercials, mouthwash does not magically push aside plaque. You will not receive the benefits of mouthwash without proper mechanical removal of plaque debris.
Last, make sure you see your dentist regularly for check ups and professional teeth cleanings. Your dentist will be able to see whether your daily brushing and flossing is preventing plaque formation, and tailor a plan to remedy any deficiencies with your at-home oral health care regimen. Regular visits will also ensure that any cavities are caught early before they’ve had time to cause too much damage.
The bottom line with cavities is that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. We’ve discussed cavity prevention in this blog, and will describe the cavity maintenance—fillings, crowns and root canals—in a future blog. There is unfortunately, no cure for cavities, but with proper home care, we can help to prevent them.
Let Gulfside Dental Help You Prevent Cavities
Gulfside Dental has been helping people in Naples and the surrounding southwest Florida area maintain their oral health for more than 30 years, and has extensive experience helping its patients prevent and treat cavities. Learn how Gulfside Dental can help you with all of your oral health needs by contacting our office today at (239) 774-3017, or by scheduling an appointment via our online appointment portal.