When kids get cavities, we feel for them. When we get cavities as adults, we may worry and wonder why. We get questions like this from patients who brush twice a day as they’ve been taught and still struggle with some degree of tooth decay. Here, we discuss what could be happening and how you can avoid the unnecessary stress of the occasional cavity.
How Cavities Form
Our teeth are some of the hardest and most durable parts of our bodies. They are nearly as tough as our bones. What makes teeth strong is the hard shell of enamel, made of calcium and phosphate. Some people believe that we lose some of the mineralization and strength in our teeth as we age. It isn’t because we age so much as it is that our teeth lose minerals when we eat and drink, especially when we eat and drink sugary or starchy items or those that are expressly acidic.
When we eat and drink, the bacteria that live in the mouth consume debris that is left on teeth. Bacteria create acidic byproducts and these sit on our teeth. The acid eats away at enamel and, once one spot has become soft, it is extraordinarily susceptible to further degradation. Thus, we end up with a cavity. This is why dentists encourage patients to avoid sugary and starchy foods as much as possible. For those times when these items are consumed, certain steps can decrease the risk of tooth decay.
Avoiding Cavities with Healthy Habits
If you drink juice, soda, coffee, tea, or other sweetened or acidic beverages, one of the biggest ways to reduce the risk of cavities is to enjoy the beverage and be done with it. Lingering over a cup of sweetened coffee or tea can sound lovely. It is also really bad for the teeth. The reason being is that it takes up to an hour for the pH of the mouth to return to a more neutral level. If you’re consuming foods or beverages frequently throughout hours of the day, your mouth does not have the chance to restore pH and it remains too acidic. This tip doesn’t just apply to beverages, it also applies to foods. Snacking every hour or so during the day depletes the minerals of teeth because the mouth remains acidic more often than not.
What about Brushing?
Why isn’t it enough to just brush twice a day like the dentist says? Many people wonder this, too. There could be several reasons. Snacking and drinking frequently throughout the day is one. Genetics could also play a part; and so does brushing. It isn’t enough to just brush. Brushing is something we want to take our time with. Compare it to brushing our hair. In that instance, we brush until our hair is smooth. We don’t leave knots but brush through them when we find them. We should take the same care when brushing our teeth, paying attention to each tooth, front, back, and top. This should take about two minutes, morning and night. Once a day, we must also floss. If we don’t floss, debris and acid are left in the spaces between our teeth and, from our perspective, that is where most cavities occur.
Oral health is something we all deserve. If you’d like help getting your oral health under control, we are here to assist you by making dental care stress- and pain-free. Contact our NYC office at (212) 974-8737 to schedule an appointment with sedation dentist Dr. Siegelman.