Three things are needed in the mouth in order for cavities to form. First, there needs to be cavity-causing bacteria present in the mouth, which most people will have shortly after birth. The second necessity is to have carbohydrates in the mouth from the foods you eat. The third thing you must have to get cavity development is teeth – we can’t get cavities if we don’t have teeth!

When we eat food, the bacteria in our mouths break down carbohydrates and produce acidic byproducts. When the surface of our teeth is exposed to an acidic environment, it favours demineralization of our enamel. If this happens for a long enough time, your tooth can actually develop holes – also known as cavities.

Knowing this recipe for what causes cavities helps us figure out the best ways to prevent their development. There are ways that we can help reduce the amount of cavity-causing bacteria – basically all forms of oral hygiene. Therefore brushing, flossing, mouthwash, and professional dental cleanings all help reduce our oral bacterial load.

The other ingredients, carbohydrates, are introduced to the mouth when we eat. If we stopped eating forever we wouldn’t develop cavities – but of course this is impossible! So, the other way we can help prevent cavities is to keep an eye on the types of foods we eat. Foods to avoid are those with high sugar content and also high acidity such as pop. Sticky foods that tend to get stuck in the teeth such as gummy candies are also not a good idea! But certain foods can actually help lower your risk of getting cavities, for example: cheese. Cheese helps by raising the pH in your mouth, which makes it harder for tooth decay to begin. Sometimes we can’t really avoid sugary foods but you can brush and floss your teeth right after so that the food doesn’t sit there in the mouth.

Other things that help us in the fight against cavities are our saliva. Our saliva actually has buffering capabilities, which can help counter the effects of acidity in our mouths. This is why if you have a dry mouth you may be at higher risk for cavities.

The last way to prevent cavities would be to get rid of all your teeth. But of course this is not exactly the solution most people would be looking for!

For more information on Cavities and other dental emergencies, please call at 416-296-0400 ext. 2 or email Dr. Isabel Cumandra at thedoctors@scarborosmiles.ca