Dental Cavities and Prevention

  • Published
  • By SrA Victor Mastley
  • 355th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron

Have you ever been at a dental clinic and the dentist tells you that you have a cavity, but you have no idea how you got it? After finding out the shocking news, you probably were not thinking about what could have caused that cavity. After all, why would you want to be at the dentist’s office longer than necessary?

If you have ever been in that situation, then wonder no more! This article is going to break down what causes cavities, give examples of foods and drinks that help accelerate the cavitation process, and explain how to prevent dental cavities.

Dental caries, more commonly called “cavities,” occur when the enamel of the tooth is weakened and broken-down. Naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth are the primary reason for this enamel break down. This bacteria feeds on the sugar from foods that we eat and creates acidic byproducts which slowly wear at the enamel. So when you eat a food that has sugar in it, the bacteria in your mouth are also eating!

Typically, you think of sugary foods as something like a Snickers bar. However, foods that contain carbohydrates can also be bad for your teeth. For instance, when you eat a piece of bread, enzymes in your saliva break down the carbohydrates into sugar, giving those pesky bacteria more ammo to damage your teeth.

An important behavior that can accelerate the cavitation process is drinking acidic, sugary drinks such as juice or energy drinks. When you sip on a beverage other than water, your mouth is constantly being attacked by the acidity, which then break down the enamel and thus increase the risk of having a cavity.

Thankfully, there is a way to prevent cavities! The first line of defense is to brush your teeth two times a day for at least two minutes. Unfortunately, the bristles of your toothbrush are unable to clean effectively in-between your teeth, but this is where floss comes in. You should floss at least once a day to ensure you are cleaning the areas that your toothbrush cannot reach. Another good preventive product you can use is a fluoridated mouthwash in conjunction with proper brushing and flossing. Using a toothpaste and/or a mouthwash with fluoride in it is very beneficial because it can add minerals back into your enamel, making it strong and more resistant to cavities.

One more thing you can do to prevent cavities is drink plenty of water with your meals and snacks, as well as drinking water after drinking an acidic type beverage. Doing this will rinse your mouth and help get the sugar and acidity off your teeth and out of your mouth.

Dental cavities are a very common disease, but are also easily preventable with a good oral hygiene routine and understanding what causes the issue. As always, please don’t hesitate to call your local dentist’s office if you suspect you have a cavity or just need additional answers.