This is an extremely complicated question that I am asked at least on a weekly basis. Every person’s situation is different but let’s look at some common situations. First, the type of cavity gives us an idea of cause, next we consider oral hygiene habits, and lastly, diet changes.
First, it depends what kind of cavity. If it is a cavity on the biting surface of the teeth, some people have such deep grooves in these teeth, even If they do everything right, they will get a cavity in them eventually. Often, your dentist will recommend sealants to cover those grooves in kids and the theory is to cover them while they are not as good of brushers! These are a great idea, but a temporary solution unless you are replacing them everytime they come off or have a defect. They can last up to 10 years, but need to be checked regularly for wear. Also, there are a few common areas where teeth often will have defects in them and will create an area for plaque to collect. One is the cheek side of the bottom molars, some bottom molars have a groove on that side, but some teeth when forming create a pit in this area which will often get a cavity in it. Again, even when doing everything right, sometimes this area will get a cavity. The last most common type of cavity we see are the kind between the teeth. Flossing is the #1 thing that prevents these types of cavities. When brushing you can get the cheek side, the tongue side and the tops of the teeth but you cannot get where the teeth touch unless you are flossing. That is the location where this type of cavity forms. We can only see these cavities on the xrays called bitewings unless they are very big. Some people will have more virulent bacteria and will be more prone to this type of cavity. Therefore, flossing is super important for them!
In addition to the type of cavity, we want to evaluate oral hygiene. We recommend brushing at least twice a day and flossing once a day. We recommend using a fluoride toothpaste which will reduce your risk of cavities. Sometimes in patients that are prone to cavities, we will recommend a prescription strength fluoride toothpaste that has 5 times more fluoride than over-the-counter toothpaste. This helps reduce the risk of getting more cavities.
After assessing and addressing oral hygiene, then we consider diet. We usually begin by asking what people drink other than water. Often sugary and/or acidic beverages are the culprit. Often the answer is, coffee. Coffee is complicated because sometimes it is not the coffee itself that is contributing, it’s what we put in our coffee. Cream and sugar can add a lot of sugar to our Cup of Joe! The other thing we want to consider is whether we are sipping on these sugary or acidic beverages or if we are drinking them with meals. Sipping can be very dangerous because it takes a while for your mouth to come back to a neutral pH after drinking something. If you are constantly sipping, it can never reset to neutral. Also, you are constantly giving the bacteria more food when sipping!
Talk with the dentist about the possible causes of your cavities. If you can pin point what is creating your problem, you have a way to combat it and prevent more in the future! If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us. Sometimes it takes a little more time and listening to get to the source but that is what makes us better health care providers. Call us today and let us take care of you! We are accepting new patients at our Westerville practice, Stauffer Family Dental. Take care and hopefully we will see you soon, Dr. Heidi.