Unless you’re married to a dentist or have a pretty serious sweet tooth, you probably don’t give too much thought to cavities. After all, the only people who get cavities are young children that wet their brush at night instead of actually brushing their teeth, not adults. Besides, you’d know if you were starting to get a cavity anyway, and right now your teeth feel great.
If you have ever told yourself any of these “facts” about cavities, then you’re just as guilty as many others who take cavity fiction as fact. To help you understand what actually causes cavities and how to prevent them, here’s what you need to know in order to separate cavity facts from fiction.
Fiction: Sugar Causes Cavities
A popular misconception that doesn’t actually miss the mark by that much, sugar doesn’t actually cause cavities, no matter what you might have heard from your mother as a child. Tooth decay is caused by plaque, a sticky bacteria that grows in everybody’s mouth. But before you start to think that mom lied to you all those years ago, you should know that sugar does help plaque cause cavities.
Plaque feeds off the sugars you consume, whether from a candy bar of a bowl full of carbohydrates, to create an acid that erodes away at tooth enamel. The more sugar you eat, the more fuel you provide plaque to create acid with.
In time, plaque acid will eventual create holes in your tooth enamel where bacteria can invade. Once inside tooth enamel, plaque becomes impossible to reach when brushing, and will eventually cause decay and cavities. So while your mother didn’t lie to you about the cause of cavities, you might be able to accuse her of not telling the whole story.
Fiction: Kids get More Cavities than Adults
Another myth that many people take as fact, kids don’t get the majority of cavities anymore. Thanks to advances made in preventative dental care, tooth sealants- which act as a protective coating against plaque acid- and the wide spread availability of fluoridated water, children get fewer cavities today than during anytime in the last 20 years.
The age group that actually experiences the highest rate of cavities today is seniors. There are many reason why seniors get so many cavities, including medications that causes dry mouth, which allows lingering food particles and plaque acid to remain on their teeth for extended periods of time.
Fiction: You’ll Know When You Have Cavities
As so often the case when it comes to health related matters, by the time you begin to suspect that something is wrong, it’s already too late. This is especially true when it comes to matters dealing with your oral health.
The pain people normally associate with tooth decay and cavities results from advanced forms of decay that has already caused nerve damage. Once a cavity has reached this point, your tooth won’t repair itself. Putting off treatment by avoiding the dentist’s office can result in you needing a more expensive procedure, such as a root canal, than just a simple filling.
Timothy Lemke is a freelance writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Brett Johnson, a Oregon City dentist.