Each time we visit the dentist we hope there are no signs of cavities, or dental caries. If there is a cavity, then your dentist must remove the tooth decay and place a dental filling. 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.
Visiting our general dentistry office consistently for cleanings will help prevent cavities. Our dentist also believes it is important for patients to understand the causes of cavities and how to take care of your teeth at home to avoid cavities.
The specific bacteria that can eventually be the cause of cavities are lactobacilli and mutans streptococci. They live in the plaque that forms on teeth as a result of eating food and drinking beverages, and live off of 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. Because teeth are made up primarily of minerals, these acids cause demineralization to occur.
There are other causes of cavities, due to factors which impair 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 become the cause of cavities or 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 family 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 the prevention of cavities, please contact Softouch Dental Care by calling 703-319-6990 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chung. Our Oakton dentistry practice serves patients in the Oakton, Vienna, McLean, Great Falls, Tysons Corner, Reston, Arlington, and Fairfax areas of Northern Virginia.