Many people in the United States heard about how sugar caused cavities while growing up. That’s why many children are told not to indulge in sweet treats–because they are more likely to suffer from cavities. However, while sugar does increase the risk of cavities in children, it is not the underlying cause itself. The sugar presence causes the enamel in the teeth to build up an acid, which then corrodes the outer layer of tooth. This is why your teeth are susceptible to cavities. Eating sugar is not as bad for teeth if you properly brush the teeth and rinse out the mouth afterwards. This can slow down the erosion, so dental hygiene is the number one determining factor in whether or not cavities develop.

A cavity is created when a portion of the tooth decays and a hole develops. If the hole is left unfilled, it can become bigger and deeper. Once a cavity becomes big and deep enough, it can expose the nerve endings near the root of the tooth and become very painful.

Plaque is bad bacteria that leads to cavities. This substance can cover an entire area of the tooth, thanks to the fact that it is made up of bacteria that decays enamel. The bacteria in plaque coverts, or uses sugar, to create acids that destroy the protective covering of tooth enamel. Without enamel, the tooth is susceptible to the growth of more plaque and further decay.

If you have a cavity, you may experience the following symptoms: a toothache, swelling of the gums (which can be a sign of severe decay or an abscess), bad breath or taste, discoloration of the teeth (grey, brown, or black is bad).

Some factors that put your teeth at a higher risk for tooth decay and cavities include not brushing or flossing regularly, not having regular dental check-ups and cleanings, and indulging in a high-sugar/carbohydrate diet. Additionally, a lack of saliva, lack of fluoride, and the presence of diabetes can also cause trouble. If you smoke tobacco or are exposed to this secondhand smoke, your odds of having a cavity increases exponentially.

Both adults and children need to have good dental hygiene in order to prevent tooth decay. While children can lose their teeth and have new ones grow in their place, adults don’t have that luxury. Once your teeth are lost as an adult, that’s it. When a permanent tooth becomes decayed and has to be removed, another one won’t grow to replace it. To prevent tooth decay and cavities from occurring, remember to follow good oral health practices.

You should brush your teeth after each meal or at least twice a day (at morning and night), especially before going to bed. Flossing is just as important, and you should make sure to do so daily. A highly balanced diet that limits high-sugar snacks can help reduce the count of cavity-causing bacteria. Limit snacks that contain sugar and carbohydrates. Drinking fluoride-filled water after eating high-sugar filled foods can help rinse out the mouth. The fluoride strengthens the teeth, and the ADA endorses the use of fluoride mouth rinse to keep teeth strong. You should also see your dentist regularly to make sure your teeth are healthy and cleaned professionally at least twice a year.

Not all cavities are caused because of poor oral hygiene, but they are mostly preventable and can be managed with good oral practices. Schedule an appointment today if you have additional concerns about cavities, or want to get your mouth checked so it can be in prime condition.