Cavities are one of the most common dental problems in this country–per a 2016 study conducted by the Center for Disease Control, nearly 90% of American adults have had a cavity at some point in their lives. And that’s a shame, as cavities can be prevented with a little care and maintenance. Part of the challenge in cavity prevention is education; there are many misunderstandings around what cavities are, how they form, and how best to treat them. So today we’d like to address a few of the myths and facts about cavities and hopefully build a better understanding of this particular oral health issue.
Let’s start with a particularly dangerous myth: You’ll know if you have a cavity. That may seem like common sense at first–it’s hard to imagine not knowing you have a hole in your tooth!–but the reality is that many cavities don’t cause much discomfort at first. Additionally, a number of them occur interstitially–that is, between the teeth–and may not be immediately visible. Coupled with the fact that cavities don’t repair themselves, you may go a long time without knowing you’re undergoing tooth decay. This is why regular exams and cleanings are so important; it gives your dentist a chance to see how your teeth are doing and to detect problems before they get serious.
Another popular myth we should debunk is the belief that sugar causes cavities. While excess sugar consumption can fuel the bacteria that do cause cavities, in reality, a number of other things can also lead to tooth decay. Starchy foods can provide the same boost bacteria need to get a foothold. Acidic or sour foods can weaken enamel and start a cavity by leaving teeth vulnerable. While sugar should be limited in your diet, so should starches and acidic foods.
We tend to associate cavities with childhood, but the idea that kids get cavities more than adults is a myth. This is in part due to public health education, fluoridated water, and better childhood dental care–together, these have helped reduce tooth decay in young people by 50% over the last few decades. In reality, senior citizens are the most at risk for cavities due to the change brought to the body as part of the aging process. For those of us in our golden years, regular trips to the dentist, a healthy diet, and a regular brushing and flossing routine are a must.
While we’re on the subject of kids and little ones, there’s a myth going around that you don’t have to worry about cavities in baby teeth. This is both untrue and potentially dangerous. The bacteria that cause cavities in baby teeth can spread to other parts of the body, leading to more serious infections or even death. Your little one’s baby teeth need the same care that other teeth do, and any cavities need to be treated as soon as possible.
Hopefully, you’ve found this brief discussion of the myths and facts about cavities helpful and informative. Information is one of the most powerful tools we have in promoting oral health, but information needs to be paired with action. An effective brushing and flossing routine, a healthy diet, and regular trips to the dentist are the foundation of good oral health and will help you avoid cavities and other dental issues. Make sure you’re doing your part to ensure that your smile lasts a lifetime.