You’ve probably seen or heard this scenario before. You brush twice a day; you floss once a day and really limit your consumption of candy and other junk food. You show up for your dental visit and to your dismay, you are told that you have a cavity. How could this be you think to yourself. Your cousin in the meantime admittedly rarely brushes and candy and pop make up a large part of their diet. But they have never had a cavity. This can be very discouraging because as humans, we all have a unique genetic and biological makeup and unlike machines, our bodies do not all react the same way when subjected to similar conditions.
Cavities occur when certain oral bacteria are present your mouth. When your teeth are exposed to certain sugars in particular for a prolonged period of time, the bacteria feeds on these sugars and produce acids that demineralize the hard outer layer of your tooth called the enamel. Left untreated, these areas of demineralization progress into the deeper layers of the tooth causing a “softening” of the tooth structure. Eventually, the nerve of the tooth will become affected and depending on the amount of healthy tooth structure still left, either a root canal or an extraction may even be needed. The best thing to do is to have the cavity treated in its early stages to minimize the amount of tooth structure that will be lost to disease and protect the remaining tooth structure.
There are several deciding factors that influence whether you are more likely to get a cavity despite above-average oral hygiene.
Those contributing factors include:
Diet. Foods that contain high levels of simple sugars and carbohydrates provide the cavity-causing bacteria the Meanwhile, acidic foods and beverages can erode enamel, and the more frequently they are consumed, the less opportunity saliva has to restore the mouth to its normal pH.
The Type of Bacteria In Your Mouth. Everyone has bacteria in their mouths but the amount and types of bacteria differ from one individual to another. Some of these bacteria cause cavities and some of them don’t. So the bacterial population in your mouth is one factor that will determine if you are more prone to cavities.
Dry mouth. Saliva helps to “rinse” off bacteria and food particles from the tooth surface. Saliva also contains chemicals that help to neutralize acids and recalcify your tooth enamel. When the saliva flow is compromised, you are more at risk for cavities. Unfortunately, things such as certain medications, health conditions and radiation or chemotherapy can reduce the flow of saliva. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol and making sure you stay well hydrated can help to minimize these effects. Artificial saliva products such as Biotene and sugar-free lemon drops can also help to keep your mouth better lubricated.
Orthodontic Appliances. Braces and other orthodontic appliances can make it a challenge to keep the tooth surfaces clean. If the appliances or retainers are removable, they should be removed prior to eating and drinking anything other than water and then your mouth cleaned prior to replacing the appliance or retainer.
Tooth Anatomy. Our back teeth have “hills” and “valleys” to help us chew our food better and these valleys can be deeper in some people than in other people. When that happens, they can become a trap for food particles which make them more of a candidate to harbor cavity-causing bacteria.
Oral hygiene Brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day will help remove plaque and any food that may be trapped. Regular checkups and seeing the hygienist are necessary remove build-up that has hardened both above and below the level of the gums.
Gum recession Because the roots of our teeth are not covered by enamel, it is an area that is more vulnerable to cavities. While this typically becomes more of a factor as we age, proper brushing technique and treating gum disease should be addressed at any age.
If you have any questions concerning your cavity risk or any other dental-related questions, please feel free to contact us at Credit River Dental in Mississauga, Ontario.