Franklin Countys First News

What causes cavities?

By Dr. Alicia Cook, Community Dental Farmington

Many people believe that the only causes of tooth decay are poor diet and oral care. In fact, there are many other factors that can increase your chances of developing cavities. While this article details many of the causes of tooth decay, this is only a portion of the list.

Lack of proper oral hygiene is a major cause of tooth decay, but why do we recommend you brush your teeth twice a day? It has been determined that it is the quality and not the quantity of your brushing that is more important. That being said, it is unlikely that you are going brush perfectly enough to get all of the plaque off every time you brush. By brushing more often, and for longer, this increases the chances that all of the bacteria and acid that has been accumulating on your teeth is properly removed. This is why it is important to brush twice a day for two minutes and to floss once a day.

While eating sugary and acidic foods can definitely increase your chances of getting cavities, it is actually the frequency more than the amount that you’re consuming that causes cavities. It is better to drink sugary drinks quickly instead of sipping on them for long periods of time because constantly exposing your teeth to sugar provides the bacteria on your teeth a constant food source. Bacteria mixes with sugar to make acid, which weakens the enamel and makes the teeth more likely to get cavities. Bathing your teeth in acid for an extended period of time can also soften the enamel. This is why we discourage sending kids to bed with a bottle or a sippy cup with milk or juice.

Did you know that heredity can affect your oral health? Heredity can control the strength of the protective minerals contained in your saliva that help to make your enamel stronger. Heredity can also affect your body’s immune response to bacteria. Oral bacteria can also be passed from parent to child. Children are born without cavity-causing oral bacteria and it has been found that moms are more likely to pass it to their children by sharing utensils and food. Therefore, if parents are more likely to get cavities, this increases their children’s risk of having cavities now, too.
Various medical conditions and medications can also increase your chances of getting tooth decay. Many medications can reduce the amount of saliva you produce, causing “dry-mouth”. Saliva is important for rinsing cavity-causing bacteria and acid off your teeth. Other medical conditions, such as acid reflux, can directly affect the strength of your teeth. Clenching and grinding your teeth can cause heavy wear and tear to the outer enamel layer, exposing the softer inner dentin layer of the teeth.

Although having a healthy diet, as well as good oral care, have been found to be the main factors that affect your oral health, cavities are not 100% preventable and there are still many other factors that need to be considered.

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3 Responses »

  1. No mentioning of floride? Why's that? Floride is useless and causes horrible health conditions that's why! It'll always be a big debate but there is medical proof.

  2. Science-based evidence: "...there is no reason to believe that fluoride, used in an approved manner, in any way causes disease,..."

    "Noting that people in wealthy areas tend have access to good dental care, ... fluoridation is one of the best public-health measures for reducing dental decay in poorer populations."

  3. Only wish to say many thanks for an awesome information.
    This just makes sense. Once I spoke to my dental office and he stated the same point I could not believe at first.
    I suppose that's what it is.