For years myths about the cause of cavities have been held on to as fact. Today we set the record straight and give you the truth about decay.
By: Dr. Kim Kutsch
MYTH 1: Brushing and flossing are enough to fight decay.
FACT: Brushing and flossing alone do not kill the bacteria that are the real cause of decay. Dental Caries is a very complex biofilm infection. There are currently 23 identified strains of bacteria in biofilms that produce the acids responsible for causing cavitation. It is more than lack of home hygiene that puts you at risk for the disease. Check out this Caries Risk Assessment to see a comprehensive list of risk factors: CariFree CRA form
MYTH 2: Cavities are not contagious.
FACT: Studies show that infants are not born with the bacteria that cause cavities, but that they are infected most often by their parents or caregivers. This route of infection is often referred to as “vertical transmission.” This vertical transmission takes place when the infant is kissed, milk or food is “sampled” for temperature, and pacifiers are “cleaned” in the parents’ mouth. It is not uncommon that whole families will be affected by the caries infection. In order to know if you have the infection, find a dentist near you that can screen your family
MYTH 3: Sugar is the reason I get cavities.
FACT: Bacteria that cause cavities are driven by an acidic pH. Acidic conditions in the mouth (pH below 7) cause a shift in the species of bacteria that form the biofilm (thin layer of bacteria that every person has) on the teeth. When this shift occurs, cavity-causing bacteria take over and good bacteria die out. Once the cariogenic bacteria dominate the biofilm, tooth decay sets in.
MYTH 4: Fluoride is the answer to stopping decay.
FACT: Studies show that the increase in fluoride use has not lowered the incidence of decay in adults; in fact Tooth decay is an epidemic in American children with 50% of 5th graders showing active signs of the disease. The World Health Organization says that worldwide 60–90% of school children and nearly 100% of adults have cavities. While fluoride is one of the ways to help manage decay it is not the sole answer. There are 5 key elements to treating tooth decay and a Caries Risk Assessment and CariScreen test can provide individual patient a targeted and comprehensive therapy they need to lower their risk.
MYTH 5: I get cavities because I have soft or weak enamel.
FACT: The acid produced by bacteria is no joke! It is a scientific fact that when the pH in the mouth drops below 5.5 demineralization of any enamel takes place. The acid producing bacteria eat away at the enamel that we call cavities. If you are getting cavities, it is not because your enamel is ‘softer’ than someone else; you have risk factors that are keeping your mouth too acidic. Ask your doctor what risk factors you can change and what elevated pH products are right for you.
MYTH 6: Filling my cavity cures the disease.
FACT: Only medical treatment can change the bacteria that cause cavities. Drilling and filling is a necessary intervention when the cavity has reached a point of significant damage. However, patching a hole in the tooth does not address the larger issue of the biofilm infection. Once a biofilm is infected the bacteria must be treated with the appropriate agents before long term health can be achieved. Patching holes in teeth with no biofilm therapy is like building a deck on a house while it is burning down; the work won’t last.
Reprinted with permission: Kutsch, K. (September 2014). 6 Cavity Myths Busted. CariFree Patient Blog. Retrieved February 17, 2016, from http://carifree.com/blog/transmission/6-cavity-myths-busted/
Learning these facts along with daily brushing and flossing, regular dental cleanings, regular dental checkups, limiting sugary foods, and no ice chewing are crucial, but it still may not be enough. The National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL) launched the “What’s in Your Mouth?” campaign to raise public awareness on safety issues related to dental restorations.
In America, most states set no minimum standards for persons to be employed as dental technicians. We encourage you to take control of your overall and oral health by asking you and your child’s dentist the following questions:
- Do you use a Certified Dental Technician for your laboratory work?
- Is the laboratory you work with certified and by whom?
- Where is your dental laboratory located?
- What materials are in the restorations you are prescribing for my/my child’s treatment plan?
Learn how you can help spread the word about “What’s in Your Mouth?” by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and requesting a “What’s in Your Mouth?” Advocacy Kit.