So your dentist said you need a root canal? Did your brain immediately jump to…
This is probably one of the first things that come to mind when you go to the dentist. But have you thought about where cavities come from? Or better yet, how not to get them! As a dental hygienist, it seems most patients know that sugar is related to cavities. But what if I told you that sugar isn’t the only culprit in cavity formation? For cavities to form, there are three components to consider.
These include 1—a susceptible tooth surface, 2—an acidic environment, and 3—sugar.
Let’s break these down:
What does it mean to have a “susceptible tooth surface”?
A tooth with weak enamel and insufficient mineral support has a higher risk of a cavity forming.
What about acid? Acid is anything that lowers the pH in your mouth below 7, creating an acidic environment. You might be thinking something along the lines of eating a lemon, and you’re not w rong, but did you know that your mouth becomes more acidic just about anytime you eat or drink something? For instance, sugared and diet soda or even carbonated water introduce our teeth to acid. That’s right! For example, a La Croix has a pH of around 2.4, which is very acidic, while plain tap water has a pH of 7.5.
What about sugar? That’s just the sweet stuff, right? Nope! Sugar comes in many forms- think of carbs like bread, pasta, and rice. When we eat acidic foods containing sugar (carbohydrate), our teeth go into a state of demineralization, making them prone to cavities.
This may all sound like a bunch of bad news, but here’s the thing: it is okay to indulge in your favorite dessert and Starbucks frappuccino. The important thing is that we are not snacking on these things throughout the day so that our teeth have a chance to remineralize.
Here’s my hygienist pro tip: If you drink a sugary coffee or carbonated beverage, drink it in one sitting instead of sipping throughout the day. Chase meals with plenty of water or milk. This will help reduce the acidity in your mouth.
Check the ingredients on your toothpaste for fluoride. Not all kinds of toothpaste have it! Fluoride is the mineral that fortifies the enamel surface of your teeth, making them less prone to demineralization, which can lead to cavities.
Now you have the tools and knowledge to make your next trip to the dentist cavity free!