Are you blaming your favorite sweet treat for your cavities? Do you think you get more cavities because you have soft enamel? These myths have existed for years, so let’s set the record straight!
MYTH 1: Brushing and flossing are enough to fight decay.
FACT: Brushing and flossing are important for removing plaque and decreasing inflammation, but brushing and flossing alone do not kill the bacteria that cause decay. Dental caries is a complex infection of the biofilm, a thin layer of bacteria, that covers your teeth. There are currently more than forty identified strains of bacteria in human biofilms that produce the acids responsible for causing tooth decay. So no matter how much you brush and floss, you still may be at risk for the disease. At our office, we check your bacterial levels with a quick painless test. This lets us know if you have a bacterial imbalance and may be at risk for decay so we can help you to prevent it. Wouldn’t it be great to never have another cavity?
MYTH 2: Cavities are not contagious.
FACT: Studies show that infants are not born with the bacteria that cause cavities but that they are infected most often by their parents or caregivers. This route of infection is referred to as “vertical transmission.” This vertical transmission takes place when the infant is kissed, milk or food is “sampled” for temperature and pacifiers are “cleaned” in the parents’ mouths. Sometimes entire families are affected by the caries infection.
MYTH 3: Sugar is the reason I get cavities.
FACT: Bacteria that cause cavities thrive in an acidic pH. Prolonged acidic conditions in the mouth (pH below 7) cause a shift in the species of bacteria that form the biofilm on your teeth. When this shift occurs, cavity-causing bacteria take over and good bacteria die out. Even some types of good bacteria can become harmful in a prolonged acidic environment. Once the cariogenic bacteria dominate the biofilm, it’s more likely for tooth structure to be “eaten away” by the acids the bacteria produce. So while sweets don’t cause cavities on their own, if you have cavity-causing bacteria in your biofilm, eating lots of sugary snacks will increase your risk for decay.
MYTH 4: Fluoride is the answer to stopping decay.
FACT: Tooth decay is an epidemic among American children, with 50 percent of fifth-graders showing active signs of the disease. The World Health Organization says that worldwide, dental caries affects from 60 percent to 90 percent of schoolchildren and the vast majority of adults. While fluoride is one of the ways to help manage decay, it is not the sole answer. There are five key elements of treating tooth decay. A caries risk assessment and bacterial test will help us to provide you with the targeted and comprehensive therapy plan you need to lower your risk.
MYTH 5: I get cavities because I have soft or weak enamel.
FACT: The acid produced by bacteria is no joke! It’s a scientific fact that when the pH in your mouth drops below 5.5, demineralization of teeth begins. This is the beginning process of tooth decay. If you’re getting cavities, it’s not because your enamel is “softer” than someone else’s—it’s because you have risk factors that are keeping your mouth too acidic. Your saliva helps neutralize the acids in your mouth and provides a reservoir of minerals for your teeth, and many medications have the side effect of decreasing your saliva flow. If you’re taking one or more medications with this side effect, your risk will be significantly increased. We can help identify what risk factors you can change and what elevated-pH products are right for you.
MYTH 6: Filling my cavity cures the disease.
FACT: Only a targeted treatment of your biofilm can change the bacterial makeup on your teeth. Drilling and filling is a necessary intervention when the cavity has reached a point of significant damage, but patching a hole in the tooth does not address the larger issue of the biofilm infection. Once a biofilm is infected with “bad” bacteria, it must be treated with the appropriate agents before long-term dental health can be achieved. Patching holes in teeth with no biofilm therapy is like building a deck on a house while it’s burning down—the work won’t last. If your cavity risk is high, you need to lower it before having cosmetic dentistry or even getting just a single crown or filling. That way your dentistry will last as long as possible.
If you struggle with tooth decay or would like more information about preventing dental caries, come by our office for a complimentary book on the topic while supplies last. Lowering your risk for decay is valuable no matter what your age because it will decrease the amount of dentistry you need to have. And that’s no myth!
For more information about preventing decay and health-centered esthetic dentistry, contact us at 303-674-5725
This article was adapted and republished with permission from Carifree, a leading company in cavity prevention. www.carifree.com/dentists/blog/education/6-truths-about-decay.