Tooth decay, which causes dental cavities, affects 90% of adults over the age of 20. When you consider that over half of Australians eat more sugar on a daily basis than the amount recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), this statistic is unsurprising. After all, cavity-causing bacteria love feasting on sugars too, and once they have feasted, the acid they produce literally eats away at your tooth enamel. It's a simple process that can be avoided by cutting down on sugar.
However, not all tooth decay is caused by an overactive sweet tooth. Some people brush and floss regularly, while eating healthy foods and staying away from sugar laden treats like pop, and still get dental cavities.
Why is this? There are several reasons for this, each of which will be explained below.
Nooks, Crannies and Crevices
Your teeth, especially the molars at the back of your mouth, contain grooves that run between the cusps (raised areas). These areas are like valleys running between mountains, and sometimes food debris can become lodged there. If left for too long, decay-causing bacteria begin to feast on this debris, multiplying in the process, and leaving behind acid that gradually erodes the tooth enamel.
By paying special attention to these areas, and examining your teeth after brushing, you can avoid this.
Over-Brushing and Flossing
Brushing or flossing with too much force will eventually wear down your tooth enamel, creating a cavity in the affected area. Even the tiniest cavity is an invitation to bacteria. Once they invade your tooth, the acid they produce will break down your tooth from the inside out.
Favor soft-bristled toothbrushes, and brush and floss gently but thoroughly.
Supplements and Medications
Medications or supplements, such as melatonin contain dextrose, which is simply another name for sugar. If you regularly take medication or supplements, check the ingredients for dextrose.
If you find that what you are taking contains dextrose, simply ensure you brush your teeth after taking it. Wait 30 minutes however, before brushing, to give your saliva a chance to neutralize any acid left behind in the bio film on your teeth.
A dry mouth means a mouth that lacks the natural protection of saliva. Saliva helps to keep cavity-causing bacteria to a minimum, and also neutralizes acid. If you don't drink enough water, your mouth won't produce enough saliva to protect your teeth. Likewise, if you exercise regularly, you also need to replace the water you lose as you sweat, afterwards otherwise dry mouth will set in.
If you suffer from heartburn, also known as acid reflux, a condition which causes acid to splash up into your esophagus, this may be causing cavities too. Sometimes, this acid reaches your mouth and causes cavities by lowering the pH value of your saliva.
Studies have shown that genetics also play a role in the formation of cavities. If cavities run in your family, you may be more at risk of cavities due to a number of genetic factors, such as naturally weak tooth enamel or gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease).
Whatever the cause is, be sure to visit your dentist regularly. Furthermore, be sure to explore other methods of keeping tooth cavities at bay, such as chewing xylitol gum, which has been proven to strengthen tooth enamel.