What Really Causes Cavities?
Despite our warmer-than-usual October weather, we’re quickly leading up to Halloween! This means that in addition to cobwebby decorations, stores are also full of candy. For many of you with kids, you’ll have quite the haul to contend with on the 31st, and you’re probably worried about sugar rushes and cavities in the weeks that follow.
Although sugar helps set the stage for cavities, it’s actually not the real culprit. Do you know what is?
Bacteria Cause Cavities
It’s the bacteria in your mouth that cause cavities. These bacteria thrive in a sugary environment, and they excrete acid, which is what eats away at your enamel and causes the condition that we refer to as dental caries, or cavities.
The bacteria that cause cavities can actually be transmitted from person to person, which is why a predisposition toward cavities seems to run in families.
Also, candy isn’t the only source of sugar for these bacteria. Any time you eat a starchy food, like pasta, bread, or rice, the carbohydrate begins to break down into simple sugars while you chew. The next time you eat a piece of bread, conduct a little experiment. Chew on the bread for a while and notice how it starts to taste sweet. Fruit is also high in the sugar fructose, and milk contains the sugar lactose.
You know that brushing and flossing are important in preventing cavities, but do you know why?
All day long, the saliva in your mouth combines with traces of food and bacteria to create plaque, a sticky substance that coats your teeth. Brushing gets rid of the plaque on the surface of your teeth, and flossing removes the plaque from between your teeth and just beneath the gumline. This prevents the bacteria from finding a comfy home and keeps sugar in your mouth to a minimum. We also recommend brushing or at least rinsing out your mouth after eating a carbohydrate-rich food to avoid creating a sugary environment for bacteria.
If the plaque is allowed to stay on your teeth, it will harden into tartar, which can only be removed by the professional instruments and skill of your dental hygienist. It’s practically impossible to remove all the plaque that can accumulate with just your toothbrush and dental floss, which is why scheduling regular cleanings is so important.
How We Can Help
Your dentist in Kirkland, Washington, Dr. Jen Kim, has a few other tricks up her sleeve for preventing cavities as well!
Fluoride – We can apply fluoride to your teeth to strengthen your enamel and make it more resistant to cavities.
Sealants – Some people, especially kids, have deep grooves in their back molars that are an excellent hiding place for food particles and bacteria. Sealants are a thin coating that “seals off” the grooves so that particles and bacteria can’t get in there and cause cavities.
Get ready for Halloween by scheduling your cleaning and preventive examination appointment with Kirkland dentist Dr. Jen Kim!