Preventing Cavities and Dental Decay
Dental decay seems to be the main concern of patients when they come into our office for an examination. Fortunately, the incidence of decay (how frequently it is seen) has decreased very significantly in the last fifty years owing mainly to the availability of fluoride in drinking water which makes teeth harder and, therefore, more resistant to decay.
For a cavity to develop, there are three variables which must be present. The secret to never again having dental decay is to eliminate at least one of these. Theoretically, the prevention is not difficult.
First, plaque must be present on the teeth. Plaque is a nearly invisible deposit of sticky goo (for lack of a better word) which is LOADED with bacteria. It is this plaque which we try to remove each day by tooth brushing and flossing. The purpose of the brush is to loosen the plaque from the exposed parts of each tooth so that it can be rinsed out. Floss does the same thing between the teeth where the brush cannot reach.
Everyone in our office agrees that an electric brush is FAR more effective than any manual brush at removing plaque. We have tried many brushes, most recently the new Sonicaire brand. I had tried this brand in the past and could not get used to the way it tickled my palate. The company has addressed this issue, and I now love this brush. We have never before seen an instrument perform so well! We highly recommend it, and can provide one for you at significant savings under the retail price.
Second, food must be available for the bacteria. They love certain carbohydrates which they ingest. Then, the little devils produce acid as a by-product of this ingestion. It is this acid which causes cavities. And what foods result in the most damage? Sugar in all its forms – soda, gum, sports drinks, candy, raisins, fruit roll-ups, etc. There are other contributing substances, but in my experience, SUGAR IS THE ENEMY!
I recently was visited by one of my favorite patients. She has a history of developing serious cavities very quickly. She had always attributed the decay to some hereditary flaw, but on further discussion she admitted to sucking life savers frequently every day at work to keep her breath fresh. She also uses sugar in her coffee and drinks several cups per day. It is likely that these habits are contributing to her dental problem if not causing them. So, if you think that you have too many cavities, perhaps an inventory of your dietary intake may shed some light on the problem. It is interesting that in the last few years, a new syndrome of rapidly advancing decay has developed among people who ingest sports drinks frequently…
Time is the third variable in the dental cavity equation. People will only develop decay if the plaque and food are allowed to remain on the teeth for extended periods. So, if you brush thoroughly and remove all the plaque, no decay will develop. Similarly, if you eat a candy bar, but quickly remove the bits that stick in your mouth, you will not have a cavity. We were taught in dental school that it takes the bacteria about twenty minutes to turn sugar into acid in high enough concentration to cause problems. So, perhaps eating junk food before bed without brushing is not a good idea. Similarly, sugary foods that are also sticky remain in the mouth a long time, and, so, are the worst for causing decay.
Bacterial Plaque + Sugary Foods + Time = Cavities
Eliminate any one of these variables, and you will never have a cavity again!
If you have questions or comments, please feel free to call our office at 908.359.6655. Or you may send email to info@DesignsForDentalHealth.com.
P.S. Thanks to new technology, we are better able to locate cavities and judge their severity. We now employ the Diagnodent Laser Cavity Detection Aid. It looks like some day, the dental “pick” will be a thing of the past…
NOTE: Originally posted November 26th, 2007