The biggest myth about cavities and food habits is that sugary foods cause cavities. The real culprit behind cavities is acid formation in the mouth, breaking down your tooth enamel and leading to tooth decay. If you are one of those people with an intense sweet tooth, there is no reason why you cannot safely enjoy your guilty pleasure all life long.
Most people believe that cavities are caused by eating a lot of sweets, like candy, cakes, ice cream, pre-packaged juices, etc. However, the truth is somewhat different. The science behind what causes cavities (a hole in your teeth) is simple.
When you eat, your teeth get coated by a film made of the sugar and starch you consume. In the absence of proper brushing and rinsing after a meal, this film or plaque attracts bacteria. When bacteria feed on the plaque on the teeth, an acid is secreted, breaking down tooth enamel. Cavities form when your tooth enamel (hard outer layer) erodes or demineralizes over time. Once the enamel erodes, it can result in tiny gaps and openings in your teeth, exposing the more vulnerable parts (nerves and blood vessels) to bacteria and decay. If left untreated, the plaque on your teeth can harden into tartar, which is more difficult to remove and creates a shield for the bacteria.
Taking proper care of your oral hygiene can prevent cavities even for the most ardent sweet lover. Here are some steps you can take to ensure you continue to enjoy your sweet cravings without worrying about cavities.
Brushing your teeth is the most basic form of dental hygiene. Ideally, brush your teeth after each meal or sweet treat to remove the plaque formed after consuming food and drink. This prevents the occurrence of acid-forming bacteria in the mouth. However, most people are unlikely to find time to brush after each bit of food or drink consumed. In this case, brushing your teeth twice a day – after waking in the morning and before bed at night – is the bare minimum you should follow.
Whenever possible, use a fluoride-based mouthwash to rinse your mouth after snacking. In addition to brushing your teeth regularly, rinsing your mouth is a great way to wash out any sugar and starch traces left in your mouth after consuming food and drink. This ensures that your mouth and teeth stay clean between meals. In a pinch, rinse your mouth with plain water, which is better than letting food particles and sugar residue reside in your mouth.
If you are someone with a sweet tooth, we hope you are brushing your teeth more than usual. However, this will also mean that your toothbrush is likely to wear out quicker than others. Frayed and bent bristles on a toothbrush are not effective for cleaning your teeth from every corner. You should change your toothbrush before it reaches this condition.
Ultimately, your aim should be to not allow any food residue or sugary coating to remain in your mouth between meals. Take good care of your teeth to minimize the chance of bacteria growth and tooth decay.
If you think you might have a cavity, Dr. Klemann at Distinctive Dentistry of Clackamas can advise you on the best course of action.