Many people are surprised to find that over time, they end up with cavities more easily than they used to. We tend to become more prone to tooth decay as we grow older, even with regular brushing and flossing. If not caught early enough and properly addressed, it can lead to far more concerning problems down the road. Fortunately, you can always take additional steps to keep your teeth healthy. We'll explore why cavities form and how to prevent them below.
Why Do Cavities Form?
Tooth decay is a condition in which the enamel of the tooth begins to erode, eventually exposing the tooth to damage from bacteria and plaque. When left untreated for too long, damaged areas grow into pockets of decay known as cavities. If you've found that you have a cavity, it's important to get it filled as soon as possible. Otherwise, it can turn into a far more serious problem in the future.
Tooth decay is a multifaceted disease. Cavities need three conditions to live: bacteria, a nutrient source for that bacteria (such as food particles stuck between the teeth), and oral conditions that provide a welcome environment for bacteria to thrive. One such condition that encourages the growth of bacteria is dry mouth syndrome, or xerostomia.
Why Does Dry Mouth Syndrome Occur?
Dry mouth syndrome can result from factors such as autoimmune disease, radiation therapy or certain medications. However, dry mouth often develops simply due to a lack of adequate saliva production, a condition that tends to develop and worsen with age.
Saliva is essential in protecting your teeth and gums. First, it helps prevent the formation and growth of bacteria in the mouth, especially those that lead to bad breath. Second, saliva is packed with proteins that protect the tooth enamel, ultimately preventing tooth decay or gum disease. Without enough of this saliva, your teeth lose their first line of defense against germs.
How to Help Prevent Tooth Decay
Fortunately, proper oral hygiene habits can help you stave off cavities, keeping your teeth healthy for years to come. Follow these steps to help keep your teeth and gums healthy:
- Brush and floss every day. Regular brushing and flossing is your first line of defense against plaque and bacteria.
- Schedule regular professional cleanings. A cleaning performed by an experienced hygienist is the most effective way to make sure you're not prone to any tooth decay or gum disease. If our hygienist discovers the signs of tooth decay during your cleaning, she'll help you come up with a treatment plan that fits within your needs.
- Stay hydrated, limit alcohol and reduce caffeine intake. Stay conscious of how much tea, coffee or alcohol you have every day. You'll want to enjoy any of these products in moderation, because each of them are considered diuretics that lower you overall hydration levels. In this situation,
- Consider protective, in-office fluoride treatments.
Dr. Rowe has spent over 30 years diagnosing, treating, and following up with patients in South Florida with genuine care. If you're worried about possible tooth decay that may damage your teeth or gums, call us today to schedule an appointment.