You brush. You floss. You keep getting cavities.
Tooth decay: the scourge of the dental patient. You may follow all your dentist’s advice, from brushing and flossing twice a day to avoiding sugary snacks, but every time your six-month checkup rolls around, you’re told you have to go back for a filling. Why does this keep happening? You may feel like you’ve been unwittingly cursed by bad dental juju, but the answer is more complicated. Luckily, the problem is more solvable too.
Why tooth decay happens
There are multiple factors that could be causing the storm cloud of dentistry to follow you around. Some you were just born with, while others have to do with your everyday lifestyle.
You’ve most likely heard the dentist’s mantra about staying away from candy and soda, but there are many more foods that can be cavity culprits, because decay-causing bacteria can feed on any fermentable sugar. Sucrose (the processed sugar in your favorite cupcakes) is the worst offender, but the fructose in fruit and fruit juice can also keep bacteria alive and well, as can the starches in salty snacks like potato chips, and even the lactose in some dairy products.
Acidic foods and drinks, such as coffee, tea, citrus fruits and tomatoes, can also wear down your tooth enamel over time. While this does not cause tooth decay directly, weakened enamel is easier for bacteria to break down to form a tooth cavity.
Eating and Drinking Habits
Toothpaste and mouthwash can only protect your teeth for so long. The more often you eat, drink, and snack throughout the day, the more often you’re introducing acids and sugars into your mouth and turning it into a bacteria buffet. It takes 30 minutes after eating and drinking for your mouth to return to a neutral PH, so if you drank a cup of coffee every half an hour at work, your mouth would be acidic all day!
The one exception to this is drinking plain water - unflavored, unsweetened water is PH neutral just like your mouth, so don’t let dental worries stop you from staying hydrated. Health authorities commonly recommend eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about 2 liters, or half a gallon.
Our mouths naturally produce saliva to wash away bacteria and clean our teeth. However, when you have dry mouth, your salivary glands are not up to the job. Dry mouth can be caused by anything from certain medications to sleeping with your mouth open. If you experience it often, make sure you tell your dentist. He or she may be able to recommend additional treatment options like daily fluoride treatments or special mouthwashes.
The part of recurring cavities that you can’t do much about is your DNA. Some people may be more genetically susceptible than others to the strain of bacteria that causes cavities. Genetics also controls the shape of your teeth and mouth; some people have teeth with naturally deep crevices, while others have crowded teeth that overlap. Both of these spots can be hard to reach with a toothbrush and create breeding grounds for bacteria.
Receding gums can increase your likelihood of cavities along with many other dental problems. When the gum pulls back and exposes the tooth root, that area is not covered by enamel, so it can be affected by bacteria much more easily.
Can you reverse a cavity?
If you’re wondering how to reverse tooth decay, the simple answer is that you can’t. You have to stop cavities before they start. Here’s a handy list of how to help do that for each of the factors we’ve talked about:
Diet: Avoid foods and beverages with sucrose, i.e. processed sugars - they’re not great for your overall health anyway.
Eating/Drinking Habits: For healthier foods and drinks that contain sugars or acids, try to eat or drink them in one sitting rather than munching or sipping all day. Choose a toothbrush and floss that you can take on the go, so you can perform your oral care routine after lunch or your coffee break.
Dry Mouth: In addition to dentist recommended remedies, you can try natural ones, like chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production, and avoiding alcohol-based mouthwashes.
Genetic Issues: Ask your dentist about applying a sealant to deep tooth crevices to prevent bacteria from getting into them. If you have crowded or overlapping teeth, consider orthodontic solutions.
Gum Recession: Choose an electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor to prevent brushing with too much force, a common cause of gum recession. For your convenience, we recommend the Shyn Daily Sonic Toothbrush as a great option. It includes everything you need to maintain peak oral health.
General Oral Care: In addition to brushing and flossing thoroughly, add a toothpaste that strengthens tooth enamel to help reinforce your smile against sugars and acids. We love Rembrandt Deeply White + Peroxide because it strengthens your teeth while it whitens from the inside out.
We hope this article helps you improve your dental knowledge and helps get you through your next dentist visit cavity-free. If you found it useful, give it a share – and tell us what you do to maintain good dental health check in the comments.