Causes of Cavities
Serving Northern Virginia including Oakton, Fairfax, Reston, Alexandria, Arlington and Washington D.C.
Each time we visit the dentist we hope there are no signs of cavities, or dental caries. If there aren’t we make another appointment for six months in the future and go back to our lives. If there is a cavity, then removing the tooth decay and getting a filling are in store for these patients. Many people believe only children get cavities. Maybe the one cavity they ever had in their life was when they were a child, and perhaps they were told it was due to the amount of sugar they ate.
But cavities are not an age-related phenomenon. Nine out of ten adults around the world have had at least one cavity in their lifetime. And sugar is not the cause of cavities. It’s the bacteria that breaks down the sugar found in carbohydrates, which have collected on the teeth over time.
The specific bacteria that can eventually cause cavities are lactobacilli and mutans streptococci. They live in the plaque that forms on teeth as a result of eating food and drinking beverages. The bacteria live on the different sugars in the food and beverages. The waste they secrete as a result of digesting these sugars is in the form of acid. The acids then cause the enamel to erode. And because teeth are made up primarily of minerals, these acids cause demineralization to occur.
There are other factors that may cause cavities due to impairing the flow of saliva. Saliva counterbalances the acidic environment in the mouth that causes cavities to form. Several diseases, such as diabetes, may inhibit the flow of saliva. Medications including antihistamines may also affect salivary glands. Smokeless tobacco has a high sugar content, which may increase the chances of cavities to form. People who smoke are also at a higher risk for cavities because it raises the risk of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease causes the gums to recede, which then exposes the root surface of the tooth. This can then cause root-surface cavities.
The most basic thing you can do to avoid cavities is to brush and floss regularly. You also need to visit your dentist for bi-annual cleanings. Removing plaque and preventing further formations is key to keeping cavity formation at a minimum.
Chewing raw vegetable fiber, like celery can dilute carbohydrates, neutralize bacterial acid, and push saliva to areas where food may be trapped. While you should increase your celery intake, you should also avoid excessive snacking since it doesn’t take long for bacteria to begin breaking down the sugars into acid. Brushing your teeth or rinsing them with clear water is recommended after each meal and snack. Fluoridated water has shown to decrease the incidence of cavities.
If you are interested in finding out more about the causes and prevention of cavities, please contact Dr. Chung at Softouch Dental Care. We serve the Oakton, Vienna, McLean, Great Falls, Tyson’s Corner, Reston, Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria, Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia areas.