Certain lifestyle factors and habits can put you at an increased risk of developing tooth decay, a.k.a. cavities or dental caries. Are you high-risk? Some of the most common contributing factors are listed below… how many apply to you?
- Sticky or acidic foods. Some foods are more likely to contribute to decay. Foods that stick to your teeth, especially sugary foods like chewy candy (gummies, caramels, etc), cakes, cookies, and dried fruits and raisins cling to the teeth. The bacteria in your mouth converts the sugar into acid, then the acid weakens the enamel and opens the door for decay. Carbohydrates like chips, crackers, and cereal have the same effect. Keep sweets and carb-based snacks to a minimum or enjoy only in a single sitting or at meal time instead of snacking all day.
- Frequent soda and sports drink sipping. When you steadily sip sodas or sugary beverages, you give mouth- dwelling bacteria more fuel to produce acids that attack your teeth and weaken enamel. Beverages like soda and energy drinks don’t just contain sugar, they also contain acid, so drinking them douses your teeth in acid right away and increase the likelihood for decay as well. If you drink sugary or acidic beverages, use a straw to help bypass your teeth. Don’t think that diet sodas are in the clear just because the sugar is replaced with artificial sweeteners… they are also very acidic and hard on teeth.
- Inadequate brushing and flossing. Plaque forms pretty quickly after eating and drinking. Plaque produces acid and must be removed thoroughly and frequently. Brushing well both morning and night for two minutes and flossing at least once a day are the foundation for controlling decay
- Dry mouth. Dry mouth is caused by a lack of saliva. Saliva helps prevent tooth decay by rinsing away food particles and plaque from your teeth. Adequate saliva flow can help counter the acid produced by decay-producing bacteria and help avoid tooth decay. Medications are a common cause of dry mouth, but sipping on pure water all day long can help.
- Too little fluoride. Fluoride is a catalyst for remineralization of the tooth enamel. Acid weakens the enamel by disrupting the chemical bonds that hold the minerals in your teeth together. Fluoride helps these bonds reform, and it also weakens acid-producing bacteria. This is why modern dentistry considers fluoride a must for excellent dental health!
- Worn fillings or dental devices. Dental fillings can weaken, begin to break down and wear out over time. Worn areas can allow food particles or plaque to build up more easily and make it harder to clean the plaque or food away. Fillings and dental prosthetics that leak or don’t fit well allow decay to begin underneath. Get regular check up so a dentist can evaluate your dental restorations and devises regularly.
- Heartburn and Vomiting. Digestive Acids weaken enamel just like the acids in food or acids produced by bacteria. Make sure you treat any Gastroesophageal reflux disease with a medication approved by your doctor, and take extra care of your teeth with extra rinsing and brushing if you get sick with a stomach bug that causes vomiting.
Are there any lifestyle steps you can take to help reduce your caries risk? Many of the factors above may be familiar to you but a few may not be so obvious as contributors to dental caries. All of us at Mall of Georgia Dentistry know that it’s the daily things that can make or break a good oral health deal with your mouth. Keeping up with your routine 6-month visits is an essential part of helping keep your teeth in great shape, and routine visits are a great opportunity to talk to our staff about any lifestyle factors that could you could change to improve your teeth and oral health. We’d be happy to help answer any questions you have and help you protect and improve your smile!