Most people learn early on that cavities are undesirable and something to be prevented whenever possible. Parents teach their children about the importance of brushing their teeth regularly and flossing. Many are diligent about visiting the dentist two times a year for preventative cleanings and check-ups. Yet, there are still several persistent myths related to cavities—both among adults and children. Dispelling these myths is important so that everyone has a solid understanding of risk factors, preventative measures, and treatment options. Five of the most common cavity misconceptions are listed below:
- Cavities are a childhood problem. This is perhaps one of the most widely circulated myths today. Countless adults believe that cavities are a childhood concern that they can leave behind as they get older. This is simply not the case. With the addition of fluoride to most public water supplies, childhood cavities are actually on the decline. Because adults—and particularly elderly adults—are more likely to be on long-term medications for chronic conditions, dry mouth becomes increasingly common with age. Dry mouth—which is simply a lack of saliva in the mouth—is a risk factor for tooth decay.
- Once a tooth is filled, you don’t have to worry about cavities anymore. The filling process involves the dentist first removing the decay, then filling in the cavity with filling material. So, once the decay has been removed and replaced by a filling, many people think that they no longer have to worry about that tooth. While it’s true that the decay at that particular spot is stopped after treatment, maintaining good oral hygiene is still essential. Not only can the rest of your teeth still develop cavities, but you can also still develop decay next to or around the filling. The bottom line: fillings don’t give you a free pass to neglect your oral health.
- Gaps in teeth are a risk factor for decay. This myth likely originates from the understanding that flossing is important because it’s able to get to those hard-to-reach areas between teeth, where decay is likely to develop. While this is certainly true, gaps in the teeth are not necessarily a risk factor for decay. In fact, large gaps in between teeth actually make brushing and flossing between those teeth easier, not more difficult. Of course, very narrow gaps between the teeth can be problematic as food is more likely to get stuck there, so regular flossing is essential.
- If your teeth are sensitive, you have a cavity. If cold and sweet treats make you wince in pain, you obviously have a cavity. Right? It’s certainly possible, but tooth sensitivity can be caused by a number of culprits besides decay. For example, gum recession—a condition that ultimately results in the roots of the teeth being exposed—is a major cause of sensitivity. Worn enamel—often caused by bruxism or aggressive brushing—can also lead to sensitivity.
- Sugar is the only cause of tooth decay. Countless people believe that if they avoid sugary candy and soda, they’ll be in the clear when it comes to cavities. Sugar, of course, is a major culprit behind tooth decay. But it’s not the only one. A sticky film called plaque is always forming on the teeth. When you eat sugar—or carbohydrates like rice, bread, potatoes, and fruit—the bacteria in plaque feeds on it. This produces acid, which eats away at the teeth and leads to decay. So, should you avoid sugar and carbs entirely for the rest of your life? Of course not. But moderation is key.
Do you want to learn more about tooth decay and cavity prevention? Contact TruBlu Dentistry today!