The Top 5 Cavity Culprits

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Have you ever wondered what causes cavities?  Odds are, you are not alone.

There are 5 main “usual suspects” in the case of cavity causation. We will take a look at each below, and help explain how they contribute.

Cavity Culprits

  1. Saliva: This is a cause most people are likely not aware of.  According to a study done earlier this year, there is a significant correlation between dry mouth and the development of caries.  Saliva has numerous functions, and more than a few components.  Among them are proteins that aid in enamel formation, calcium building , and oral lubrication.  There are also microbial enzymes within saliva that kill bacteria. Therefore a decrease in saliva, a very common side-effect in many medications, can increase the development of cavities.
  2. Bacteria: The mouth is host to a variety of bacterial species. Most are harmless and even helpful.  However, some of them have damaging effects on teeth.  Cariogenic, or cavity-inducing bacteria, are common in dental plaque, but usually in too low of numbers to have any adverse effects.  With the right conditions, however, such as frequent sugar intake or a lack of plaque removal, these bacteria can proliferate and cause decay.
  3. Genetics: In some cases, people are born with a prevalence towards the development of dental caries.cavity culprits 2
  4. Diet: Most people are aware that their diet has an influence on their oral health.  The methodology, however, might be less apparent.  Sugars and sugary foods are the largest culprit, but what exactly happens?  It all goes back to bacteria.  Bacteria love to feast on the sugars in food, and in turn they release an acidic by-product that lowers the mouth’s pH, which brings us to the last topic.
  5. pH: This isn’t something that people usually think about, but the pH in your mouth is incredibly vital.  Saliva helps maintain the pH of the mouth at a neutral 6.2-7.4.  When there is an introduction to the mouth of acid forming substances, such as sugars, carbonated beverages, stomach acid, etc, the pH lowers and the mouth becomes acidic allowing the cavity forming bacteria to penetrate the surface of the tooth. This lowered pH gives the “bad bacteria”  the environment that they need to form cavities in our teeth.

An important question remains on how to prevent cavities. Some factors, like those influenced by genetics, are not in the patient’s hands. Others however, like brushing and flossing regularly, not smoking, eating foods lower in sugar content, and making and keeping regular doctor’s visits, are. Additional helpful measures are eating foods high in calcium, like green vegetables, using fluoride or fluoride toothpaste, and potentially consulting their dentist regarding the pH and dryness of their mouth. It is estimated that cavities contribute to a worldwide productivity loss of approximately $27 billion yearly! Help prevent them today!

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