Everyone knows the basics – sugar causes tooth decay, brush and floss twice a day. Unfortunately, it isn’t always that simple. There are plenty of reasons people end up with cavities, and some of the causes of tooth decay are avoidable with the right information and care.
More than Sugar – Dietary Issues
Sugar is some of the best food for bacteria that lives in your mouth, but did you know that carbohydrates and acidic foods and drinks will also damage your teeth and gums? Dentists recommend that patients stay away from carbonated and sugary drinks to protect their dental health. Many patients switch to diet drinks to protect their teeth, but most carbonated drinks contain acid. Fruit juices also contain acid, and so do some foods like fish and bread. If your teeth get coated in acid and you don’t brush after eating, that acid starts to eat away at your enamel. Many foods also contain hidden sugars, and even though juices are healthier for your body than soda, they aren’t necessarily better for your teeth. Avoiding foods high in any of these things, and brushing after eating can help protect your teeth and gums from damage that leads to cavities.
Improper nutrition will affect your periodontal health directly and indirectly, but there are other important factors to consider when you’re trying to maintain or improve oral health.
Brushing twice a day is recommended, but so is brushing after meals. You should also brush your teeth for at least 2 minutes. Some electric toothbrushes have timers, but you can also put a timer in the bathroom to make sure you’re brushing long enough.
Just as importantly, you should also be flossing, brushing your tongue, and using mouthwash. Some mouthwashes are designed to loosen plaque and fight gum disease, and some mouthwash is for strengthening teeth. Ask your dentist for recommendations on what types of mouthwash or floss you should be using if you’re having issues with regular cavities.
Genetic Complications and Conditions
Some people are genetically prone to high levels of oral bacteria. Others are prone to deep tooth crevices, which can harbor bacteria and plaque leading to gum disease and cavities. Some unlucky people have both issues. Though dental sealant can help prevent tooth decay in healthy teeth, it does require regular maintenance and sometimes reapplication.
People can also have issues with dry mouths either due to medications they’re taking, conditions like diabetes, or genetics. Saliva inhibits the growth of plaque. If your mouth doesn’t contain enough saliva to protect your teeth, plaque will start to build up and damage them. Your dentist should work with you if you experience dry mouth issues to make sure it doesn’t affect your teeth.
Tooth grinding can also lead to tooth damage and decay. If you have issues with jaw pain, worn teeth, or clicking in the jaws, you might want to speak with your dentist about how to protect your teeth.
We all know that children are prone to tooth decay than adults. This is not only caused by a lack of proper brushing habits, but is actually exacerbated by parents and children (or children among themselves) sharing utensils and cups. The germs that cause tooth decay can be passed from one person to another. This is sometimes responsible for the evidence of “soft teeth” running in families.
On the other end of the spectrum, the older someone is, the more likely they are to be taking a prescription medication that can lead to dry mouth. Even without that risk factor, our gums recede as we age, and years of improper dental hygiene tend to catch up with us as we age.
Whatever issues you might be having that are leading to repeated cavities, talking to your dentist and following their instructions can lead to a much easier trip to the dentist for your next visit. Being proactive about your oral health won’t solve every problem, but it will make it more difficult for tooth decay to take hold.