Important Things You Need to Know About Cavities
Cavities, also known as caries, are prevalent in children. According to the Center for Disease Control, cavities are one of the most common chronic health conditions in children. There is no doubt that cavities are a big issue, and can be harmful to adults too. If left untreated, cavities can destroy your teeth, resulting in abscesses and infections that can cause a lot of pain.
People generally believe either they, or their children, get cavities because they either eat too many sweets, don’t brush or floss as often as they should, or their teeth are genetically “too soft.” However, many factors can cause cavities:
- Oral hygiene: You have probably heard your dentist talk about good oral hygiene and its importance in preventing cavities. It’s true, that with meticulous oral hygiene, most of us can avoid the majority of cavities.
- Diet: Most people are also aware of diet as a contributing factor to cavities. There is a lot to unpack here, but you can read my blog post about whether your fizzy drink is harming your teeth here.
- Bacterial load: The amount of cavity-causing bacteria in a person’s mouth is a big contributor to cavities. This is the least talked about major cause of cavities, so we will expand below.
Cavities are caused by bacteria converting sugars into acids. Those acids then dissolve the tooth structure. Without bacteria in your mouth, you could eat all the sugary, sticky candies you want (and never brush your teeth) and NO cavities would occur. Yes, without certain types of bacteria in your mouth, you (mostly) cannot get cavities! (Drinking lots of acidic things would still do damage to your teeth.)
Bacterial load is the amount of cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth. The higher the load, the more at risk you are to get cavities. You can reduce bacterial load through good brushing and flossing. Antibacterial mouth rinses and certain kinds of toothpaste also have antibacterial properties. These “fixes,” however, do not address another important factor: how much bacterial load you are infected with early in life. We are not born with cavity-causing bacteria in our mouths. For example, we are infected by our parents when they clean our spoons by putting them in their mouths and we are infected when we get kissed on the lips as a baby. There is research that shows the more cavity-causing bacteria we are infected with in the first two years of life, the more likely we are to have higher bacterial loads for the rest of our lives.
Again, meticulous oral hygiene or cutting sugars from your diet can prevent most cavities but do keep this in mind for your children or your grandchildren. Consider it when you want to clean their pacifier with your mouth. Consider it when you share spoons. Consider it when you go to kiss them. Expectant mothers now is the time for meticulous oral hygiene! By not passing on your bacteria, you might improve their oral health for a lifetime.
Our doctors at Shemen Dental recommend preventive dentistry for patients of all ages, to help them maintain healthy smiles throughout their lives, and to monitor for cavities and decay before they reach advanced stages. Many patients only visit the dentist after the onset of these conditions or during dental emergencies that require more expensive treatment than a general preventive exam. Six-month checkups with your dentist can help you maintain a healthy smile at every age and can lower the risk of requiring costly invasive treatment. Whether you are new to the Amarillo area or simply need to establish ongoing care with a dentist, we are here to help your entire family experience the many benefits of outstanding oral health.