When it comes to oral health, cavities are probably the topic the majority of us are most familiar with. But just because the topic is familiar doesn’t mean it’s routine – and if your own oral hygiene regimen isn’t covering all the main causes of cavities, you might be leaving yourself open to future problems.
So, do you know what really causes cavities, or do you just think you know?
What You Need to Know About Cavities
Cavities, also known as tooth decay, dental carries, or carries, form when bacteria breaks down the hard tissues of a tooth. The bacteria forms acid, which first eats away at enamel, and if left unaddressed, can progress all the way to the pulp.
Cavities can cause pain and discomfort, difficulty eating, infection, inflammation to the surrounding gum tissue, and eventually tooth loss.
Thankfully, cavities can be dealt with relatively easily. Practicing good oral hygiene and regular dental cleanings will help stave off cavities, and if one does develop, a dentist can fill it quickly and easily. And by avoiding the most persistent causes of cavities, your chances of staying cavity-free only get better.
Top Causes of Cavities
Many cavities start with poor nutrition. Sugary foods provide the raw material for bacteria to start eroding enamel, and highly acidic foods and beverages (like lemons, coffee, and sodas with phosphoric acid) begin attacking teeth immediately.
Saliva is the first line of attack against these lingering food particles, but if your mouth is having difficulty producing enough saliva, cavities can be a concern. Dry mouth can be caused by tobacco use, alcohol, salty foods, and prescription medication, as well as genetic conditions and medical issues such as diabetes.
Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can also make teeth more susceptible to tooth decay. Teeth grinding often is involuntary, occurring while we sleep, and in pronounced cases can wear down the outer layer of tooth enamel.
But along with these sources of cavities, poor oral hygiene tops the list as the potential source for tooth decay.
An Ounce of Prevention
Adopting an effecting oral hygiene routine is one of the best ways to stop cavities before they start. But brushing at least twice a day is just a start. Using the right toothbrush is vital to thorough cleaning – your brush’s bristles should be firm but soft. An older brush with stiff or hard bristles can be abrasive to soft gum tissue, or miss contours along your teeth.
It’s not a bad idea to brush after every meal, or to at least rinse with water, and to give your tongue a solid scrubbing as well. Along with brushing, daily flossing is important for cleaning spaces your toothbrush can’t reach. Mouthwash can reduce any lingering bacteria, particularly on your tongue.
And after finishing your personal routine, having your teeth professionally cleaned by a dentist twice per year is key to fighting tooth decay.
Your Next Dentist Appointment
Beyond avoiding cavities, your regular cleaning is an opportunity to monitor your overall oral health and goals. At Herrick Dental, not only do we clean your teeth thoroughly, we inspect your mouth for signs of periodontal disease, cancer, and other health concerns. And we’re happy to answer your questions – the more you know about your own health, the more effective your own hygiene will be between cleanings.« Back to blog