There are few things I dread more than going to the dentist. I consider myself of average diligence in regards to brushing and flossing and have luckily only ever needed one cavity filling. Because I want to keep it that way, I decided to investigate ways to avoid the sound of the drill at our next visit to the dentist.
Cavities are the result of tooth decay, which can affect both the outer and inner layers of the teeth. Tooth decay occurs when the acid in plaque erodes tooth enamel. Plaque builds up when there is an excess of bacteria, acid (a product of the breakdown of carbohydrates), and saliva. The rotted part of the tooth is removed when we get a filling and is replaced with silver, gold, or porcelain.
Ana O’Connor’s New York Times article tells us that chewing sugar-free gum may help prevent cavities. It’s not some magical ingredient in the gum that does this. Rather, the act chewing of gum itself cause increased salivary flow, which can rinse away excess plaque and acid. We should avoid sugary gum because the breakdown of sucrose (a type of sugar) contributes to acid build up (and cavities).
Interestingly, decay-causing bacteria can also be transmitted from mouth to mouth, by sharing food or by kissing, for example. Mouthwashes are a good way to clean out bacteria if you don’t have time to brush. Additionally, to build strong teeth and bones, make sure you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D.
Even if you chew gum, rinse with mouthwash, and take your vitamins, brushing and flossing is of the utmost importance in cavity prevention. If you don’t get around to it any other time, at least be sure to do so after eating sugars and other carbohydrates and before going to bed.
Like with many things that pertain to our health, genetics has a role in our likelihood of developing cavities.
If your parents are prone to tooth decay, you have to be especially careful to brush and floss well and often.
Lastly, it is important not to avoid the dentist or the filling if you suspect you do have a cavity, because tooth decay gets worse when left untreated—getting a cavity filled is nothing compared to having to get a root canal! These days, a numbing shot called an anesthetic makes getting a filling virtually painless. And if you, like myself, don’t mind the pressure on your gums but hate the sound of a drill, I recommend ear plugs.
- Are Cavities Really Contagious? from Time Health & Family by Time Inc <http://healthland.time.com/2011/04/07/are-cavities-really-contagious/>
- Really? Sugar-Free Gum Helps Prevent Cavities from the New York Times Well by the New York Times Company <http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/07/really-sugar-free-gum-helps-prevent-cavities/>
- What’s a Cavity? from KidsHealth by the Nemours Foundation <http://kidshealth.org/kid/talk/qa/cavity.html>
Article by Esther Slaman
Feature Image Source: Reader’s Digest