Our entire dental team at Knoxville Smiles is on a mission to end cavities and gum disease. Here is a basic review of what causes dental cavities and what you can do to prevent them.
Tiny bits of food, saliva, and oral bacteria form a sticky substance that clings to our teeth. This substance is called “dental plaque.” Bacteria in this plaque produce an acid as they feed on the carbohydrates we eat. This acid demineralizes (erodes) our dental enamel. When the erosion creates a hole in the enamel, it is called a “dental cavity.” The process of dental demineralization is the dental disease called “caries.” By eliminating plaque, we reduce the amount of bacteria in our mouths that produce erosive acid and irritate gum tissue.
Because caries is an active disease that always becomes more severe if it is not treated, you want to do everything you can to prevent it, have regular dental checkups so the dentist can find it early, and promptly schedule treatment if you have it. One of our dentists will stop your cavity from growing by cleaning out the bacteria and damaged tooth surface inside, and then protect the inside of the tooth with a composite dental filling. Treatment for severe caries may require a crown, root canal and crown, or even dental extraction.
What You Can Do to Prevent Dental Cavities
- Eat a balanced diet that is low in carbohydrates, especially sugar.
- Schedule professional teeth cleanings at the regular intervals recommended by our dentists and registered dental hygienists.
- Brush your teeth at least twice daily, with the last brushing occurring before bedtime. Floss your teeth before this last brushing of the day.
- Use a fluoride mouth rinse. For the children in your household, make sure the rinse does not contain alcohol, and monitor the usage. Make sure they are swishing and spitting—not swallowing it. Make sure they swish with the rinse before bedtime. We are happy to recommend appropriate rinses.
- Some people have deep pits in the sides and tops of their molars. These pits make it more difficult to fully clean out food debris with a toothbrush. Children have more problems with this because they are not as dedicated to their brushing. Our two recommendations are (1) use an electronic toothbrush, which will clean teeth up to 30% more effectively, and (2) have us treat the at-risk, pitted surfaces of teeth with sealants.
- Acidic beverages such as coffee, soft drinks, and sports drinks also erode minerals from dental enamel. Rinse with water or clean your teeth after these types of drinks. Chewing sugarless gum will increase saliva flow and also help clear away acidic fluids.
- If teeth have become sensitive, it may be due to low mineralization. We recommend fluoride varnish be applied to the teeth and that you use a toothpaste made for sensitive teeth. Both will put extra minerals on the surfaces of the teeth and counter balance mineral loss due to dental plaque and acidic foods and beverages.
- If teeth are crowded tightly together, it is more difficult for you or your child to clean between teeth. Orthodontic treatment not only provides a more beautiful smile, it also aligns teeth for an optimal bite and spacing. We recommend orthodontics for teens and adults for health reasons, not just cosmetic ones. Our teen and adult Invisalign patients are now benefiting greatly from proper teeth spacing.
Note: Your dental enamel absorbs minerals from the water you drink, the foods you eat, your fluoride toothpaste, and fluoride mouth rinse—but guard your teeth from acids that can easily outpace the natural re-mineralization process.
Remember: You have control over your and your children’s diet, daily oral hygiene habits, and dental appoint scheduling for cleanings, checkups, and recommended treatments. Dr. Malone, Dr. Costa, and our registered dental hygienists want to help you protect your teeth and minimize the dentistry you need now and for the rest of your life. Don’t delay appointments. Give us a call today!