Cavities, also known as dental caries, are very common in children, teens, and adults. Most people know sugar can cause cavities and brushing your teeth helps prevent them but most don’t know exactly how a cavity forms and all the ways they can prevent them.
What Causes Cavities?
Cavities, holes in your teeth, are caused by plaque. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on your teeth. When you eat or drink foods high in sugar, the bacteria in the plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque forces these acids stay in contact with your teeth instead of easily washing away. Overtime these acids causes the enamel to break down and a hole (cavity) to form.
Type of Cavities
There are two type of cavities, pit and fissure cavities and smooth surface cavities.
Pit & Fissure Cavities are found on the chewing surfaces of the teeth usually on the molars and premolars. The chewing surfaces of these teeth are rough and uneven making them a favorite place for leftover food and cavity causing bacteria to hide.
Smooth Surface Cavities are mostly found along the gumline or where two teeth touch. These are less common that pit and fissure cavities but can occur when plaque forms in these often neglected areas.
How To Prevent Cavities:
Dental sealants are a great safety net to help keep our teeth protected from pit and fissure cavities. Dental sealants are thin, protective coatings, made from plastic or other dental materials, that are placed on the chewing surface of the molars to protect them from cavities and decay. With dental sealants, the bacteria and acid that create cavities, are kept from settling on your teeth. Sealants have been shown to reduce the risk of decay by 80% when applied to the molars.
Proper tooth brushing removes leftover food, plaque buildup, and other cavity causing bacteria that have accumulated on your teeth, gums, and tongue. Remember to brush twice a day for two minutes at a time. Opt for a soft bristled tooth brush to make sure you’re able to remove plaque buildup on and under the gumline.
Flossing is a great way to fit smooth surface cavities that occur where two teeth touch. By flossing you are able to remove leftover food and plaque that has wedged itself between your teeth. Regular brushing isn’t able to reach these areas which makes flossing super important to reduce cavities between the teeth.
Food is very important to the health of your teeth and gums. Choosing healthy foods and limiting harmful foods can help improve oral health, keep away cavities, strengthen enamel, and prevent gum disease. Opt for foods rich in calcium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin B3 for the best oral health while staying away from candy, alcohol, acidic foods, and sugary drinks. Learn more about what foods improve or worsen your oral health by reading our blog posts below.
Drinking Enough Water
Not drinking enough water can lead to an underproduction in saliva. Saliva helps to neutralize the acids and wash away leftover food particles and bad bacteria. Staying hydrated allows your body to produce enough saliva in order to protect your teeth from cavity causing acids & bacteria.
Use Fluoride Toothpaste
Most toothpastes contain some form of fluoride; however, be sure to check and make sure you’re using a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride strengthens the enamel of your teeth, preventing cavities and tooth decay. Also make sure to not rinse your mouth out after using fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride coats your teeth and takes time to work. So, avoid rinsing your mouth out, eating, or drinking until 30 mins after you’ve brushed your teeth.
If you have a cavity it will need to be treated with a filling otherwise it will continue to get bigger and deeper. A cavity filling closes off the space where bacteria can enter the tooth and helps prevent further decay. During a cavity filling the dentist will remove the decayed tooth material, clean the affected area, and then fill the cavity with filling material.
If you have a cavity or are interested in dental sealants to prevent cavities give us a call at 202-509-0801 or fill out our online form to schedule an appointment.