Everyone knows that brushing your teeth twice a daily, flossing at least once a day, and seeing your dentist every six months for a teeth cleaning and dental exam helps prevent tooth decay. Unfortunately, some people do all this dental care and try their best to keep their teeth healthy but end up with cavities anyway. What gives?
What Really Causes Tooth Decay
It’s certainly not fair, but sometimes your best efforts can’t keep cavities away. You might brush religiously while your partner slacks regularly, but you’re the one who gets cavity after cavity. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try at all – your oral health would be in much worse condition if you weren’t careful about oral hygiene – but it can feel like an unlucky draw.
The reality is that cavities come from two main places – sugar consumption and genetics – and knowing how this occurs through these two sources can help you feel better about your circumstances:
- Eating sugar: It’s plain and simple – cavities do not exist without sugar. But cavities aren’t an indication that you’re chowing down on candy all the time. Think about how many foods and drinks have high quantities of sugar in them, from soda to bread to fruit. It’s hard to avoid sugar completely, so even if you’re very careful it will still find you in unexpected forms.
- Unnoticed entry points: When sugar is in your mouth, bacteria feasts on it, multiplies, and settles in between teeth. If you have existing hairline tooth cracks, holes, or deep crevices in your teeth, cavities won’t be far behind.
- Deep crevices on your molars: The deep crevices on the biting surfaces of molars are hot spots for sugar and bacteria to set up shop.
- Dry mouth: If you don’t produce enough saliva – which contains important components like calcium and phosphate which help neutralize acid and ward off early tooth decay – cavities are far more likely. You may not produce enough in general or you may be on medications that cause dwindling saliva. Autoimmune disorders, aging, stress, and tobacco use can also contribute to poor saliva production.
- Thin tooth enamel: Some people are born with thin tooth enamel that means they are more prone to yellowish-looking teeth and, unfortunately, tooth decay.
Once you accept that you just might be prone to cavities through no fault of your own, the question is what can you do about it to prevent tooth decay as often as possible?
- Keep brushing at least twice a daily. You don’t have to brush harder – this can damage your gums and tooth enamel too which isn’t helpful for warding off too decay – just be thorough.
- Floss daily. Flossing at least once a day will remove particles from between your teeth, areas where your toothbrush cannot reach.
- Use fluoride toothpaste. There are plenty to choose from so if you need a recommendation, as your dentist.
- Reduce sugar intake. This includes carbs, which convert into sugar in your mouth.
- Get sealants. Sealants can help prevent decay when applied to the grooves of your teeth as a protective layer.