While dental issues may not get the same press coverage as cancer or heart conditions, the range of oral disease is just as widespread if not more. In fact, the World Health Organization states that 3.5 billion people, almost half of all humans on Earth, are affected by oral diseases.
One of the most well-known dental issues are the dreaded cavities that both children and adults fear. According to the Global Burden of Disease 2017, cavities are the most common health condition in the world.
The risks of oral diseases go far beyond tooth loss as there are some cases where death occurs as a result of untreated dental issues. This article is going to teach you everything you need to know about cavities, what causes them, and how to prevent them.
Does Sugar Really Cause Cavities?
You’ve likely heard that you shouldn’t eat too much sugar or you’ll be at a higher risk of developing cavities, but is this really true or just another medical myth that has been perpetuated by parents?
Well, if you ask the WHO, it’s very true. They recommend that you avoid free sugars if you want to prevent cavities. The criteria of what qualifies as a free sugar in the eyes of the WHO is pretty specific so be sure to read up on it.
The summary is that free sugars describe monosaccharides and disaccharides that are added to food. We know that’s a lot of medical jargon so we’ll try to simplify the concept in a way that’s more digestible (no pun intended.)
Monosaccharides have a single sugar molecule. They contain glucose, galactose, and fructose. In contrast, disaccharides have two molecules. This is the category that table sugar — or sucrose — falls under.
Tainted Drinking Water — The Dental Impact
A recent study by the West Virginia University School of Dentistry assessed whether children exposed to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances through their drinking water were at a higher risk of developing cavities.
These substances were originally introduced to the environment by manufacturing plants. Despite the fact that manufacturers have stopped using them, they remain in the environment due to their strong chemical bonds and long molecular structure.
Perfluorodecanoic acid, a substance that falls under the aforementioned classification, has been correlated with higher levels of tooth decay — so it should come as no surprise that children who are exposed to these chemicals have a higher chance of developing cavities.
The study included a total of 629 children. Those who participated were between the ages of 3-11 years old, providing a diverse sample. This is a good reminder to companies in the manufacturing sector that reckless practices can have longlasting side effects.
One of the most characteristic symptoms of cavities is the tooth pain that you’ll experience as a result. It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t automatically assume that the pain is a result of cavities since it could actually be an indication of heart disease or lung cancer.
Be sure to visit a dentist if you’re experiencing tooth pain so that they can identify the root cause and administer the necessary treatment. Furthermore, be sure to exercise regularly as it will deter cardiovascular and pulmonary issues.
Another telltale symptom of cavities are sensitive teeth. You might experience pain when drinking cold beverages or enjoying some ice cream. There are other causes for sensitive teeth though so this symptom alone isn’t an automatic identifier.
That being said, if you’ve never had problems with sensitive teeth in the past but suddenly develop sensitivity then there’s a chance that it may be the result of cavities being present in your teeth.
Stains on your teeth can be another indicator of cavities. It’s generally fairly easy to distinguish between staining due to cavities and those that come as a result of smoking. Stains that are left from nicotine tend to be yellow in hue.
In contrast, the stains caused by cavities are either black or white. It’s essential to get these stans checked out with your dentist so that you can nip the problem at the bud before the situation worsens.
Of course, the one symptom that you can’t miss is the development of holes in your teeth. This is often the point where those suffering from cavities seek out help from a dentist. However, we’d advise against waiting for things to get this bad before requesting treatment.
One way to think of it is that your teeth are akin to an old house. The better you maintain it and the sooner you repair issues, the lower its odds of collapsing will be. In this case, a collapse would entail tooth loss.
The Wonder of Brushing
Every person on the planet has bacteria in their mouth. After you eat sugary foods or drink a sweet beverage, the bacteria in your mouth will turn the sugar into acid which erodes your teeth. This is why you should brush twice a day to keep plaque in check and avoid cavities.
In addition to sugar, those who drink acidic beverages can also fall victim to the scourge of cavities. A healthier diet and proper hygiene can prevent cavities as well as various other diseases, so why wait?
It’s worth noting that how you brush your teeth can be almost as important as how often you brush. Be sure to review the ADA guide and brush for two minutes if you want to get the most out of your dental routine.
In addition to cutting free sugars out of your diet and brushing your teeth, one of the best ways to prevent cavities is by going for dental checkups on a regular basis. Much like a car, your pearly whites need regular maintenance to stay in top shape.
If you have any questions regarding cavities or want to learn more about best practices that stave off oral diseases then don’t hesitate to give our downtown Chicago dentists a call at (312) 236-9325! Remember, healthy teeth make for a happier smile!