Ask the Dentistry Expert – Dr. Chabaylo
Article written by: Dr. Scott Wyzykoski
Every day at work I will have someone ask me why their kids are still getting cavities even though they are brushing with them two or three times a day. The answer is simple – brushing your teeth has very little to do with preventing cavities.
Cavities (decay, caries) are primarily caused by a combination of sugar and acid together that creates an environment where cavity-causing bacteria can flourish and multiply. It’s not so much the quantity of sugar that causes the problem, but the type of sugars and the amount of time they spend in contact with the teeth. In fact, tooth brushing immediately following a meal can cause more harm than good as the “grit” in toothpaste can easily brush away the enamel off our teeth – a process known as abrasion. Wait 15 min after a meal before brushing.
So what can we do to help our kids and ourselves prevent cavities?
First and foremost is to improve our dietary habits. Cutting down on high acid sugars such as juice and pop, candies, slurpies, etc will make a huge impact on improving not only our health, but our resistance to decay. Instead of finishing a meal with sweet desserts such as cookies or ice cream, consider finishing with a small piece of cheese. This will help bring the pH level back to neutral as well as stimulate our saliva to flush out the sugars we just consumed during that meal. Or consider a piece of sugarless gum, xylitol-based in particular, which has been shown to drastically reduce decay rates.
Second- start flossing. Most people brush, very few floss. One of the most common areas where cavities start is the contact point where teeth touch. Proper flossing will prevent these cavities and also help maintain gum health and prevent tooth loss due to periodontitis which is the more advanced form of gingivitis. You can floss while watching TV or reading and just flossing will prevent more problems than just brushing.
Third – see your hygienist and dentist regularly. By the time a baby tooth is hurting, the decay is into the pulp and the tooth needs to be extracted. This is traumatic for everyone involved. Fixing a small cavity early in the process is a simple and pain-free fix. Same goes for adult teeth if you want to avoid major dentistry such as root canals and crowns, detect and fix problems early.