THE CAVITY CONVERSATION

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Dental-X-rays“WHY DO I HAVE SO MANY CAVITIES DOC?” This is the million dollar question I am going to try to answer for you. When you think of cavities (tooth decay), the first thing you think of is candy, and oftentimes, this is a big culprit. But as I speak with my patient who is trying to digest the thought of multiple office visits for fillings, we work hard at trying to find the cause of his or her tooth decay.

Cavities are the result of softening of the mineral portion of our teeth, deminerilization. This softening is most often caused by acids produced by bacteria naturally present in our mouths. Other damaging sources include stomach and dietary acids.

Dentists have always recommended that patients reduce sugar intake and reduce the bacteria by brushing and flossing daily. Some sugar sources go unnoticed. Sports drinks are one example. Young athletes who regularly consume sports drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade and Vitamin Water, to name a few, are at a higher risk of developing tooth decay. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, sports drinks are recommended for hydration only after intense exercise lasting for more than 60 minutes; for shorter exercise periods, sports drinks are unnecessary and water is the best hydrator. Another common source is breath mints. Smokers and teenagers are common consumers of these. Look for sugar-free mints.

“DOC, BUT I DRINK DIET SODAS” Although these sodas do not contain sugars, they do contain phosphoric, carbonic and citric acids. These can all slowly wear away our teeth and lead to tooth decay. Acid reflux is another contributor. A large portion of our population suffers from this condition, which occurs when acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus. When we are sleeping, this acid can back up into our mouths and wear away our teeth as well as cause cavities. If your children frequentlyhave high amounts of cavities and do not fall under the high-risk categories, ask your pediatrician if there are any signs of acid reflux in your child.

Dentists are trained to look for signs of tooth decay and acid wear on teeth, but it is most important to have a conversation to identify the source of your cavities. In the meantime, observe your daily routines and see whether your consumption of acids or sugars put you into the high-risk category. Fluoridated toothpastes as well as non-alcohol mouth rinses containing fluoride are recommended as well as visiting your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings and your annual exam.

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