When I was 16, I started working a job on the weekends at a restaurant. As a “perk” of the job I could drink all the soda I wanted on my shift from 6pm-midnight. I’d drink it my entire shift and then after work I’d usually drop into bed without brushing my teeth because I was so tired (and a teenage boy). A year later I went to the dentist and was told I had 6 cavities! This was a big shock because I never had a cavity before. My parents weren’t happy and neither was I. That was a big wake-up call for me because I didn’t want to have to do that again!
We have a lot of patients come to the office and ask how they got all these cavities. There are a lot of reasons why cavities form but most of the big reasons are ones you have control over…
In 1820 the average American ate around 6 lbs of sugar a year. Today we’re up to somewhere around 100 lbs of sugar (and possibly even more according to some studies).
In addition to the many other health problems this sugar consumption causes, it is also the single most important reason why people continue to get cavities.
Sugar is in many foods that you don’t think about. You especially want to watch out for anything you are drinking or snacking on throughout the day. This can include sweetened drinks (coffee with sweetener too!), fruits, chips, crackers, mints, cough drops, and many other things.
Acidic Drinks:
Regular Sodas, Diet Sodas, Orange Juice, Lemonade, Water flavorings. All of these decrease the pH of your mouth for 20-30 minutes after each sip. That acid environment is perfect for forming cavities.
Not Brushing and Flossing!
The bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar and use this sugar to form acid. It this acid that slowly breaks your teeth down leading to cavities. Brushing for approximately 2 minutes in the morning and evening removes most of the bacteria and sugar that are sitting on your teeth. Unfortunately toothbrushes can only reach 3 out of 5 of the surfaces on your teeth! Only floss can get in there and disrupt all those cavity causing bacteria. Make this a habit and not only will you protect yourself from cavities, but from periodontal disease as well. Only floss the teeth you want to keep!
Fluoride Use:
Use a good fluoride toothpaste daily and you’ll reduce your risk of cavities by at least 25%.
Genetics do play a large role in the cavity process and you can’t do anything about this. Some people are just much more likely to get cavities than others. The best you can do is take care of the things above and you more often than not you’ll be in good shape.
There are also several positive things you can do to reduce your risk of cavities.
Chew gum. The increased saliva flow helps keep your mouth clean.
Eat candy/gum/mints sweetened with Xylitol. This sweetener helps reduce the risk of cavities.
Eat dairy instead of sugars/carbs. Cheese in particular seems to have a protective effect.
Still concerned about what you need to do to keep from getting cavities? Come into the office and we’d be happy to discuss a personalized plan to keep you cavity free.