Why Is An Increase in Cavities Surprising?
At Designer Smiles, our doctors are noticing a surprising increase in cavities among children and young adults. It is surprising because at this point in history, we have better cavity-fighting weapons than ever before. We have fluoride in our community water supplies. We have prescription strength mouthrinses now available over-the-counter. Dentists have better equipment for viewing the teeth and catching cavities as soon as possible.
Why Is There an Increase?
The short answer is we do not really know. The long answer is that we suspect the increase results from a combination of a few trends that are relatively new to this generation.
- People are not drinking fluoridated water. The Center for Disease Control provides great information on the benefits and safety of community water fluoridation. Currently, Webster has some fluoride in the water, but it is only about half of the level recommended by the American Dental Association for optimal cavity prevention.
Many people do not drink tap water. Instead, they opt for bottled water. Most brands of bottled water do not contain fluoride and do have a pH that is very acidic!
- People are commonly drinking very acidic beverages. Consumption of sodas has decreased in recent years. Many people are choosing “healthier” options like sports drinks, sugar free beverages, and sparkling waters. While these are certainly better for your overall health than sodas, the pH is just as acidic. So they are only slightly better for your teeth than, say, a Dr. Pepper.
What Causes Cavities?
There are four important factors in the development of cavities:
- Bacteria – Bacteria are a natural part of our mouth’s environment. Certain bacteria are more dangerous than others. Some people have a higher risk for cavities simply by housing stronger cavity-causing bacteria in their mouths.
- Sugar – The bacteria ingest (or eat) sugar. The more sugar you eat, the more you feed these bacteria. You strengthen them and help them cause cavities.
- Acid – When the bacteria eat sugar, they produce acid as a by-product. This acid etches (softens and weakens) the enamel, allowing the bacteria to penetrate and cause a cavity. When our mouths have an acidic pH (like when we drink those acidic drinks listed above), the enamel becomes weaker and allows the bacteria’s acid to work faster.
- Time – This factor applies to all three of the above factors. It takes time for bacteria, sugar and acid to cause a cavity. The longer bacteria touches enamel, the more likely it is to cause decay. The longer sugar stays in contact with your teeth, the more likely you are to get a cavity. The longer your mouth has an acidic pH, the higher the chance of getting cavities.
What Can You Do to Prevent Them?
In order to prevent cavities, you have to fight each of the four factors listed above under the cause of cavities.
- Bacteria – We fight this factor in the development of cavities by keeping our teeth as clean as possible. Removing the plaque buildup from teeth reduces the amount of bacteria in our mouths. Brushing twice daily, flossing nightly, using a cavity-fighting mouthrinse and keeping to regularly scheduled professional teeth cleanings all limit the bacteria’s ability to cause cavities.
- Sugar – Limit your sugar intake. Stay away from sticky candies that may be stuck in the grooves of your teeth. Eliminate any habits of sucking on peppermints or other hard candies. Have sweets with your meals only.
- Acid – Know the pH of your beverages! Stay away from very acidic drinks or drink them with a meal only. Drinking them with a meal helps reduce their impact because saliva acts as a natural buffer for the acid.
- Time – Limit the time your teeth are exposed to harmful bacteria by keeping them clean on a daily basis. Do not expose your teeth to sugar and acids for long periods of time. Do not sip on acidic or sugary drinks. Drink them very quickly, or only have them with meals.
Do You Think You Have Cavities?
Do you think you are at risk for cavities? Do you already have cavities that you know about? Call us today at 281-667-4010 to set up a consultation with Dr. Ann and Dr. Lauren. We will discuss with you the specific risk factors that you have and give you tips to reduce them.