Cavities. Most of us have had at least one in our life, although we do our best to avoid them. Many may think of cavities as a nuisance from their youth, but people of all ages suffer from cavities. So what causes these sometimes painful ailments, and how can we best avoid them? While keeping up a thorough oral hygiene regimen is a good place to start, there may be more that you can be doing to help keep your teeth cavity-free! Here, you’ll learn all about what causes these tiny holes and how to treat and prevent them.
What are Cavities, Exactly?
Cavities are tiny holes that form from bacteria on the surface of a tooth. As bacteria builds up, it forms a sticky substance known as plaque which removes necessary minerals from the enamel of your teeth, in a process known as demineralization. These bacteria turn sugars into acid and eventually wear through the enamel of the tooth down to the dentin layer underneath, creating the cavity itself.
There can be many factors that lead to the buildup of plaque and eventual cavities, and everyone’s situation will be a bit different. Common factors for cavity development include:
- Eating sugary, sticky foods such as gummy candy
- A diet low in vitamin D
- Frequently drinking beverages that are high in sugar and acid, like soda and fruit juice
- A lack of saliva in the mouth, caused by dry mouth or another medical condition
- Snacking before bed without brushing teeth after
- Acid reflux or heartburn, as the acid from the stomach will erode teeth
- Improperly or inadequately cleaning the teeth
You are your own best defense against cavities! Along with brushing twice daily and flossing regularly, there are a few other things you can do to help reduce your likelihood of cavities forming.
- Fluoride is your friend! Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste or using a fluoride mouthwash will help strengthen your enamel and make it harder for cavities to form.
- Avoid sugary foods. As we’ve learned, sugar is the main perpetrator when it comes to cavity formation. Steer clear of high-sugar foods, especially those of a sticky or gummy consistency as these stick to teeth and may not be washed away with saliva. Brushing after indulging in dessert is the best way to avoid cavities from sweets.
- Drink plenty of water. Drinking more water will not only help your mouth rinse out lingering sugars, but staying hydrated will also aide in your natural saliva production.
- Chew sugar-free gum. Studies have shown that chewing sugar-free gum can help remineralize teeth as well as boost your saliva production.
Being proactive about avoiding cavities is your best defense against a trip to the dentist for a filling! However if you do suspect a cavity has formed, it’s time to call the dentist as there is no way to fix the problem on your own.
To learn more about cavities and what you can do to protect your teeth, or to schedule an appointment with your dentist, give us a call at Carillon Family Dental in Romeoville today!