Chances are if you have teeth, you’ve had at least one cavity in your lifetime. In fact, according to the CDC, 90% of Americans over the age of 20 have had a cavity. But just because they’re common doesn’t mean you necessarily want one. This is one reason, among many others, that some patients will reduce how much sugar they consume daily. While your dentist in Walnut Creek can certainly get behind that, we also want you to know that you can still get cavities even if you don’t eat sugar.
How Does a Cavity Develop?
Before we take a look at some of the ways you can get a cavity, it’s important to know how a cavity develops. Cavities can form over time due to several reasons, but all cavities follow the same progression. The process begins with a buildup of plaque, the sticky substance that covers teeth every day. We can’t avoid plaque from forming, but we can keep it from causing problems by brushing our teeth daily. If we don’t, the acids in plaque will attack tooth enamel and start to cause tiny areas of decay. These small holes or pits provide shelter for mouth bacteria to hide and reach deeper into the tooth, causing the small area of decay to become bigger and bigger cavities.
What Causes Cavities?
Most people think that sugary foods and drinks are the only things that cause cavities. Now, while they’re correct that sweet snacks can certainly lead to cavities, there are several other things that can cause cavities to develop.
Carbohydrates and starchy foods like pasta and bread can also cause cavities. Foods that contain carbohydrates essentially feed bacteria in the mouth so they can thrive. Additionally, these bacteria will produce an acidic byproduct after feeding. These acids can weaken enamel, decay can settle in, and a cavity can form.
We already know that plaque acid and acid in general is a key ingredient of cavity development, however, acidic foods and drinks such as citrus fruit and lemonade can have a similar effect. The more acidic foods and drinks in the diet, the more likely it is that you’ll get cavities.
- Dry Mouth
One of the little-known causes of cavities is dry mouth. Dry mouth can be caused by any number of things such as certain medications or tobacco use. Usually, our mouths use saliva to wash away bacteria and neutralize the dangerous acids. However, when a mouth is too dry, there’s not enough saliva around to do its job. This means bacteria and acids are left to do what they do best – cause cavities.
How to Prevent Cavities
The good news is that while cavities continue to be an incredibly common dental problem, they are typically easy to treat and there are things you can do to help reduce the likelihood of needing a filling from your dentist in Walnut Creek.
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat well-balanced meals
- Reduce your intake of sugar, acidic foods, and carbs
- Brush and floss your teeth daily
- See your dentist at least twice a year
If you have any signs of a cavity including pain, sensitivity, tooth staining, or tooth pitting, schedule an appointment to see your dentist in Walnut Creek. Early treatment is key to preventing a cavity from becoming a bigger problem.