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Cavities can be a common occurrence and are often the culprits of tooth decay. While none of us enjoy going to the dentist, the process can be made much worse when the dreaded “you have a cavity” talk ensues. To avoid needing a filling or prolonging tooth decay, it’s important to take preventative care of your teeth and deter cavities from forming. What it boils down to is the cause: where are these cavities coming from? We’ve got a few things that you may not expect.

Img: Cavities, source: Flicker

 

Too Much Sugar Are Causing Your Cavities

Bacteria in the mouth feed on sugar and starches that accumulate on teeth, thus, creating acid that decays your enamel. Eating foods high in sugar leaves a lot of remnants for these bacteria to feed on and could be the source of your consistent cavities. Within about 20 seconds of eating sugar, bacteria in your mouth have already converted it to acid that will sit on your teeth for up to a half hour. If your typical diet consists of handfuls of hard candy or a few cookies every day, then you may want to think about switching out your typical snack for something easier on your teeth, like leafy veggies or vitamin-packed fruits. Sweets that sit in your mouth do more damage as well- keeping a sucker in your mouth for five minutes causes much more damage than eating a handful of M&Ms. If you do consume sugar throughout the day, try rinsing your mouth out with water or brushing your teeth afterwards to minimize damage.

Acidic Foods & Drinks

Another big contributor to tooth decay, acidic foods and drinks eliminate the middleman of the bacteria in our mouth and go straight to destroying enamel. Foods like citrus fruits and drinks like sodas and juices can directly erode enamel, putting you at greater risk for cavities. Saliva is your body’s best defense against particles and acids sitting in your mouth, so eating acidic foods before bed is asking for trouble- your mouth naturally produces less saliva while you sleep. If you do decide to eat an acidic meal, pairing it with cheese can help neutralize the effects.

It’s in Your Genes

Genetics can make you more susceptible to cavities. Even if your brushing habits are impeccable and you make it a point to floss every day, if your teeth are genetically weaker than most, it may not be enough. It’s also the reason why some people who consistently snack on sugary foods never get a cavity- they genetically have tougher enamel. Talk to your dentist about ways to protect your sensitive teeth.

Your Oral Hygiene is Lacking

Of course, the most obvious cause of cavities is simply not taking care of your teeth. Even brushing twice a day isn’t enough- try to floss at least once a day (more, if you are particularly susceptible to getting cavities) and rinsing with a mouthwash before bed. If cavities seem to be a common occurrence for you, brushing after every meal may be necessary- you may even need to floss after snacks. It’s also important to visit your dentist twice a year, as well as whenever you have oral concerns, like tooth pain caused by cavities.

You’re Getting Older

As it does with most things, age changes the health of our teeth. The soft tissue of the mouth gets weaker with age and gum lines recede, offering less protection to our fragile teeth. We also produce less saliva as we get older, further exposing our teeth to damaging bacteria.

No matter the cause, cavities needs to be recognized and treated by a dentist. If you’re experience tooth pain or sensitivity, the likely culprit is a cavity. Talk to your dentist about treatment options and tweak your habits to keep a healthier smile.

About the AUthor: Dr. Louis P Bosse runs Greenspoint Dental, a Houston dentistry clinic offering general appointments as well as cosmetic and restorative dentistry consulting.

 

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