You may not know all the facts about tooth decay and cavities, but you do know it’s something you don’t want to have. Yet cavities (dental caries, tooth decay) are the most frequent chronic disease it both children and adults. In fact the National Health and Nutrition Exam Survey revealed that 92% of adults ages 20 to 64 have had a least one cavity and 26% have untreated cavities.
While these stats are somewhat shocking, what’s even more surprising is that many don’t really know what causes dental caries and the impact they have on their overall health.
Want to prevent tooth decay, stay healthy and save money? Here are five surprising facts about cavities you need to know:
Cavities are actually bacterial infections
In simple terms, a cavity is just a hole in your tooth. There’s just a lot that happens in your mouth to create it. Dental caries are formed through a combination of bacteria and acid. As sugar enters the mouth, it’s broken down by bacteria and secretes an acid as a by-product. This acid begins to dissolve and softens the outer layer of the tooth. These soft spots are the places where bacteria enters the tooth and hides out.
Once this happens, it becomes harder to remove the bacteria with just brushing, flossing and rinsing. And as long as the bacteria stays on the tooth, it continues to dissolve the tooth leading to a cavity.
You may not know you have one
It would be nice if your mouth let you know the instant you started forming a cavity. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Mild tooth decay doesn’t come with any symptoms. In fact, those who have pain they associate with cavities are usually experiencing a more advanced type of tooth decay that has damaged the nerve.
The best way to catch tooth decay before it gets advanced is to have routine screenings by your dentist. Not only will this help you in discovering cavities, it can help in preventing them.
Sugar isn’t the only culprit
Eating too much sugar isn’t the only cause of cavities. Many so-called healthy foods (granola bars, bagels, dried fruit) aren’t good for your teeth either. Carbs and other sticky foods also contribute to tooth decay. Food that sticks to the teeth feed the bacteria which causes cavities.
Your best bet is to snack on healthy food options like fruits, vegetables, nuts and cheese. If you choose to indulge in a less than healthy snack, be sure to brush about 30 minutes after eating or at least rinse your mouth with water if you can’t brush.
Keeping tooth decay at bay can improve your overall health
The health of your mouth affects the health of your body. Poor oral health has been linked to diabetes, stroke and heart disease. By practicing good oral hygiene you not only keep your pearly whites looking good, you keep your body feeling good.
By taking care of your mouth, you keep your teeth–and body– healthy for a lifetime. Reduce your risk of serious health issues by proper brushing, flossing and regular visits to the dentist.
Cavities can cost more than $2,000 over your lifetime
Prevention saves money and cavities are preventable. Practicing good oral hygiene, eating healthy meals and snacks, and getting regular dental check-ups can help you steer clear of tooth decay. And if it’s caught early enough, dental decay can even be reversed.
It’s estimated that each cavity you prevent saves you more that $2,000 over your lifetime. And if you have more than 32 teeth in your mouth, you have quite an investment to protect.
Dr. Mike Malone and his team practice expert cosmetic dentistry in Lafayette, LA. Dr. Malone is the former president and accredited member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is also the official Cosmetic Dentist of the Miss Louisiana USA and Miss Louisiana Teen USA pageants.