Five Common Cavity Misconceptions

Written by on July 28, 2013 in Health - No comments | Print this page

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child-dental-careSince childhood, you’ve probably heard about the importance of brushing so, as mom used to put it, your teeth don’t rot out of your head.

Since teeth don’t actually rot, what your mother was referring to whenever she had to ask you twice whether you really brushed before bedtime or just ran you toothbrush under the faucet was tooth decay and cavities.

Surprisingly, even though most people have spent their entire lives brushing in an attempt to keep their teeth and gums healthy, many people still believe a number of common myths about the causes of cavities.

To help you separate cavity fact from fiction, here are the five most common misconceptions about cavities that dentists hear from patients.

Sugar Causes Cavities

Before you call mom and ask why she lied to you about sugar rotting your teeth as a child, know that while sugar doesn’t actually cause cavities, it does contribute to decay.

Your mouth contains millions, occasionally billions of bacteria. While most of this bacteria is either harmless of even beneficial, plaque- a sticky mix of bacteria and lingering food particles- is not.

Whenever you consume items that contain sugar, such as sodas, cookies, pasta, breads, and countless other foods and drinks, plaque begins to produce acids that slowly eat away at your teeth’s enamel.

The more items high in sugar your diet contains, the more acid plaque produces and more damage occurs to your teeth. So while sugar doesn’t directly lead to cavities, it does play a big role. Fortunately, as long as you brush and floss daily, you can eat sugar without worrying about developing any cavities.

Only Kids Get Cavities

While getting at least one cavity was once a childhood right of passage, the number of kids with cavities has actually dropped in half over the last 20 years.

Thanks to advances made in preventative dentistry, the widespread availability of fluoridated water, and the more prominent use of dental sealants, children’s teeth are healthier now than ever before.

However, one age group has actually seen a surprising increase in the number of reported cavities- seniors.

While dentist don’t know for certain why so many more seniors have started developing cavities, a widespread belief in the dental community points to the number of seniors on medications that cause dry mouth as a side effect.

Saliva plays a vital role in protecting teeth from decay, and dry mouth is a known cause of decay.

Every Filling Needs Replacing Eventually

Despite the strain they undergo, fillings remain surprisingly durable, and can last for years depending on the material they are made from.

Amalgam fillings, which are constructed from a variety of element such as mercury, tin, aluminum, and zinc, can actually last a lifetime as long as the structure of the tooth remains intake.

Composite fillings made from a combination of glass and resin offer the aesthetic value of blending seamlessly with your tooth, but they do tend to crack more frequently when compared to amalgam fillings.

You Always Know When You Have a Cavity

One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to cavities is that you’ll know when you have one. Unfortunately, when it comes to your oral health, by the time something begins to hurt, serious damage has already occurred.

When decay eats away at a tooth, the damage can become extensive before you ever feel the first twinges of pain. Scheduling regular checkups with your dentist plays an important role spotting tooth decay during the early stages.

Sensitive Teeth Means a Cavity

If your tooth twinges with pain each time you drink something hot or cold, you might not necessarily have a cavity.

Tooth sensitivity can occur due to a variety of oral health problems, including gum recession, hypersensitivity, or a cracked or broken tooth, that have nothing to do with a cavity. If you experience tooth pain, talk with your dentist to determine the potential cause.

John Nickelbottom is a freelance health writer. 

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