Six Things You Ought to Know About Cavities
1. Cavities start with a Tiny Hole
When a miniscule hole forms in the enamel of your tooth, you have the beginnings of a cavity. As bacteria in your mouth eat away at the enamel, the hole widens and deepens at an exponential rate, making it possible for bacteria to get into the center of the tooth. The enamel is the hardest tissue in the body, and once your cavity has busted through the enamel, disease and infection can access the softer core of the tooth. Over time the material inside turns into a brown mush. In the words of one dentist, the inside of a decaying tooth “looks like a bomb went off,” when ex-rayed. When your dentist saves or “fills” a tooth, he drills out what has decayed and fills it with a synthetic material.
2. Gum Can Help Prevent!
Maybe you don’t want to carry your toothbrush and toothpaste around all day, but chewing sugar-free gum is a great substitute if you don’t. The sugar substitute xylitol in particular has been endorsed by the American Dental Association as being effective in fighting cavity-causing bacteria and preventing the formation of plaque on teeth. The reality is, plaque sticks softly to your teeth so chewing gum mechanically breaks up the “sugar bugs” that cause plaque and eventually tartar. Xylitol has also shown signs of improving the pH levels in your mouth, making it harder for cavities to form in the first place by making it a more difficult environment to grow bacteria in.
3. It’s not just about sugar
New research has revealed that sugar is not the only culprit in forming plaque on the enamel of your teeth. Studies show that any acidic food changes the pH in our mouths negatively, creating a better environment for the formation of cavities.
How can you avoid foods that are “Acidic”? Sugar combined with caffeine is up there–caffeinated soda, energy drinks, sweetened coffees and teas, and others are real cavity-causers. That’s why many dentists categorize “Mountain-Dew Mouth” with “Meth Mouth” as some of the ugliest restorative dental work you can do in the profession.
4. Snacks linger
Snacks have a big impact on your teeth. For up to three hours after consumption, the pH in your mouth is altered after you eat, giving bacteria a big window for building up plaque and working away at your enamel. To combat the negative effects of snacking, drink a glass of water, brush your teeth, chew gum, run a flosser through your teeth or swish with mouthwash to clean out your mouth and prevent damage.
5. Teens are at risk
Teenagers run a higher risk for getting cavities because they love energy drinks and snacks. Additionally, teens often let their brushing and flossing habits slide as they receive less supervision from parents over normal hygiene habits.
6. Cavities don’t hurt—at first
In the early stages, cavities normally don’t hurt at all. If you set normal 6-month checkups with X-rays, your dentist should be able to nab any cavities in their early stages and do a quick filling. When the decay goes very deep into a tooth’s roots and makes contact with nerves call for a root canal, a surgical procedure where a dentist removes that nerve while filling the roots of the tooth.