Dr. Anthony Butchert
Below the Lifetime Dental Care team clears up the most common myths and facts about the cause of cavities. Read on below to get the details.
Sugar Is the Prime Cause of Cavities
Myth. Cavity causing bacteria cause cavities, specifically streptococcus mutans’. When you ingest carbohydrates the bacteria in the oral cavity also like to eat them as well. The by-product of this digestion by the bacteria is acid. It is the acid in the mouth that can break down the hardest structure in the human body-enamel. Once the acid penetrates the hard outer enamel, an initial cavity has begun and can become much larger over time. At this point the process is still reversible. Saliva and fluoride are both important factors in the mouth that can help buffer the acid and also remineralize the tooth structure before an initial cavity turns into a large one. Continual snacking on carbohydrate-rich foods and drinks throughout the day put you at higher risk for dental decay vs. regular meals. Water is recommended throughout the day instead of coffees, teas or pop which have added sugar or milk. Foods that should be limited to mealtimes include crackers, chips, rice, pasta, potatoes, milk, juice, bread and anything else with sugar/carbohydrate content.
All Fillings Eventually Need Replacing
Myth. A silver or white filling needs to be replaced only if it breaks, a cavity forms around it or if it is leaking. If a filling is stable and serving the purpose it should be left alone. All fillings have a life expectancy, most do not last a lifetime. How long your filling lasts depends on each individual’s oral factors such as oral hygiene habits and grinding/clenching habits. Good oral hygiene with daily brushing, flossing, rinsing and wearing a splint if you grind/clench may help prolong the life of your fillings.
Cavities Always Occur Only Between Teeth
Myth. Cavities can start anywhere on the tooth where bacteria are left. If you leave bacterial plaque on the teeth in areas you are unable to brush or floss a cavity can start. Besides in between the teeth, a common area for dental decay to occur is on the deep pits and fissures on the biting surface of the teeth. Dental decay that occurs between the teeth are typically due to a lack of regular flossing, as you are leaving these areas untouched as the toothbrush cannot reach these areas to clean.
Cavities Are the Only Reason for Root Canals
Myth. Root canals are needed for teeth that have damaged and/or an infection in the pulp of the tooth (where the nerve resides). Cavities that are left and not treated can lead to needing a root canal, but other causes such as fractures, cracks and trauma to teeth can cause damage to the nerve which may also necessitate a root canal. Severe clenching or grinding may also damage the nerves to the teeth to the point they need a root canal.
Brushing, Flossing, and Rinsing Is the Best Way to Prevent Cavities
Fact. Definitely! Dental decay and gum disease are both caused by different types of bacteria. You need to remove these bacteria from the mouth in order to facilitate health and prevent disease. It is recommended to brush 3x a day for 2 minutes preferably with a high quality electric toothbrush, floss once a day and rinse daily. It is recommended to use fluoride toothpaste to help prevent cavities and fluoride is naturally antibacterial as well! Antimicrobial mouthwashes reduce bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. If you are diligent with daily care at home your incidence of cavities and gum disease will be reduced.