The most dreaded words a dentist can say to you other than “root canal” is “You have a cavity.” Once upon a time, that phrase meant your mouth was doomed to an afternoon of uncomfortable pain and a permanent, off-colour fixture to your mouth. Despite the many advancements to the cavity correction process, they are still words that fill a patient with dread.
It’s not just a matter of the procedure or the cost. It’s a reminder that you have been less than diligent in your oral hygiene. It says that, perhaps despite your best efforts, you have failed your mouth and now must carry that scar. It’s a reminder of the ironic fragility of an important piece of your body, and the importance of taking care of your oral health.
In your efforts to remain cavity-free, here are the four things that are necessary for cavities to form and how you can prevent them.
1. A Tooth
It seems rather obvious, but especially when dealing with your children, the first thing you actually need is a tooth. As soon as your child sprouts that first tooth, it’s time to start selecting a pediatric dentist to ensure that little chomper stays healthy.
For your own mouth, remember that you won’t be growing any new teeth. Keeping a regular brushing, flossing, and oral hygiene schedule is important to maintaining your mouth’s health.
2. Sugar or Simple Carbohydrates
Ah, sugar—so delicious, yet it’s a true nemesis to your mouth. Sugar, or more accurately simple carbohydrates, is the fuel source for the production of plaque, which is ultimately the beast that will wear down a hole in your tooth. When sugars are not cleaned off your teeth, they create a source of energy for bacteria to feed on and produce acids.
The best way to defeat this system is to avoid sugary delights—an impossible feat, of course. Realistically, limiting your consumption of simple carbohydrates, regularly brushing your teeth to remove the buildup of sugar on your teeth, and avoiding the worst perpetrators—those pure sugar candies that are also sticky and will cling to your teeth—keeps this fuel source away from the bacteria in your mouth.
There are and will always be bacteria in your mouth. Most of it is actually naturally occurring and important to your health and the food breakdown process. The problem arises when bacteria combine with sugars to produce acids that will eat away at your teeth.
You don’t want to remove all the bacteria from your mouth, so in this two-part equation, your best defense is to limit or avoid the fuel source—sugar—required to produce acid.
If you let sugar on your teeth turn into acids by interacting with the bacteria in your mouth, breaking a hole in your tooth won’t take long. Plaque will continue to produce acid until the enamel is worn away and tiny openings form. From here, acids formed by plaque will continue to rot away your tooth from the inside.
In our sugary world, it’s very easy to create the right circumstances for cavities, which is why it’s more important than ever to learn proper oral hygiene. Ask your dentist for help.