What Is a Cavity?
Cavities are a very common occurrence, as 92% of adults ages 20 to 64 have had at least one in their lifetime. A cavity develops when food or debris is left on your teeth; plaque forms and attracts bacteria that eat through your tooth.
When left untreated, cavities can become a serious health issue. The infection can make its way through your tooth until it reaches the center, where sensitive materials are held and the infection becomes severely painful.
At that time, only a dentist like Dr. Scott Anderson can help, either saving the natural tooth through a root canal or by removing it and replacing it with a dental implant.
If you’re that small portion of the population that hasn’t ever had a cavity, you may be wondering if you’re immune. While eating candy, drinking soda, and not brushing your teeth all contribute to the development of cavities, they’re not the true cause.
The Origin of Cavities
Did you know that cavities are actually the result of infectious bacteria? You aren’t born with the ability to develop cavities, but you can obtain the bacteria Streptococcus mutans from other people.
Whether it’s from sharing a straw, kissing, or otherwise sharing saliva from someone with the bacteria, most people have this disease before they even realize it.
So, if you haven’t caught Streptococcus mutans or other cavity-causing bacteria, it’s possible you may not get cavities. To keep your cavity immunity up, you’d have to make sure you never come into contact with it.
Susceptibility to and Prevention of Cavities
Unless you happen to be very lucky or careful, it’s difficult to avoid Streptococcus mutans forever. It may be to your overall detriment to be paranoid about catching it, so it’s likely that at some point you’ll come into contact with it.
If you already have Streptococcus mutans, there’s nothing you can do to get rid of it. Even so, there are people who get cavities less often than others. The bacteria isn’t the only factor in developing cavities and often, you can have a positive effect on your oral health.
Though there are some conflicting studies about how much genetics affects cavity development, there’s evidence that there is a connection. Specifically, if your beta-defensins are mutated, your body’s defenses may be relatively weak.
Beta-defensins act as the first line of defense against the formation of cavities. They have direct antimicrobial properties that can protect your oral health from infections.
What you eat has a very strong effect on how healthy your body will be, and that includes your oral health. If you eat sugary foods often, you may be at a higher risk for cavities no matter how much you brush your teeth.
Consuming foods like milk, cheese, and leafy greens can help to strengthen your teeth. Including these in your diet more regularly might keep your teeth healthy in the face of bacteria.
Chewing gum with xylitol as an ingredient can also help to reduce the number of cavities you get. Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol that inhibits the growth of Streptococcus mutans.
A healthy amount of saliva is necessary to wash away food particles and debris. If you have a dry mouth, a condition often caused by certain medications, your mouth’s defenses are lower.
But the composition of your saliva, no matter how much or how little, can impact whether you’re more likely to develop cavities. Tests like the Caries Assessment and Risk Evaluation (CARE) can predict how susceptible to cavities a person is by examining the saliva for sugar complexes.
Of course, brushing and flossing your teeth daily are some of the most important actions you can take against cavities. Dentists like Dr. Terence Lau recommend that you brush your teeth with a soft-bristled brush for two minutes in the morning and the evening, and floss at least once per day.
Toothpaste and mouthwash with fluoride can help to protect your teeth, so these products can be tooth savers.
Though brushing and flossing your teeth alone is important, it’s also helpful to be using the most optimal products. Antimicrobial toothpaste and mouthwash can multiply the impact your daily oral hygiene routine has on keeping your mouth cavity-free.
Visit the Dentist for Cleanings
It’s recommended you visit the dentist every six months for regular exams and cleanings. Even if you brush and floss your teeth every day, there are areas of your mouth that can be difficult to clean. These unchecked spots can develop into cavities.
When you visit a dentist like Dr. Vu Kong for a cleaning, every area of your teeth will be cleaned to ensure your risk for cavities is lower. Even if you do have some decay forming, they’ll be able to fix it quickly instead of letting it grow into a problem.
While it is possible to be immune to cavities, it’s highly unlikely and difficult to maintain. You also may not know for sure if you’re immune or not, as you may have been lucky in not developing cavities.
Even if you’re immune to cavities, keeping your teeth clean and healthy is an important part of life. It’s best to practice good oral hygiene habits in case you gain the ability to develop cavities or already have it.