For years myths about the cause of cavities have been held on to as fact. Today we set the record straight and give you the truth about decay.
MYTH: Brushing and flossing are enough to fight decay.
FACT: Brushing and flossing alone do not kill the bacteria that are the real cause of decay. Dental caries is a very complex biofilm infection. There are currently over 40 identified strains of bacteria in biofilms that produce the acids responsible for causing cavitation. It is more than lack of home hygiene that puts you at risk for the disease.
MYTH: Cavities are not contagious.
FACT: Studies show that infants are not born with the bacteria that cause cavities, but that they are infected most often by their parents or caregivers. This route of infection is often referred to as “vertical transmission.” This vertical transmission takes place when the infant is kissed, milk or food is “sampled” for temperature, and pacifiers are “cleaned” in the parents’ mouth. It is not uncommon that whole families will be affected by the caries infection. In order to know if you have the infection, find a dentist near you that can screen your family.
MYTH: Sugar is the reason I get cavities.
FACT: Bacteria that cause cavities are driven by an acidic pH. Acidic conditions in the mouth (pH below 7) cause a shift in the species of bacteria that form the biofilm (thin layer of bacteria that every person has) on the teeth. When this shift occurs, cavity-causing bacteria take over and good bacteria die out. Once the cariogenic bacteria dominate the biofilm, tooth decay sets in.
MYTH: Fluoride is the answer to stopping decay.
FACT: Tooth decay is an epidemic in American children with 50% of 5th graders showing active signs of the disease. The World Health Organization says that worldwide 60–90% of school children and nearly 100% of adults have cavities. While fluoride is one of the ways to help manage decay, it is not the sole answer. An individual and comprehensive therapy is what is needed to lower risk.
MYTH: I get cavities because I have soft or weak enamel.
FACT: The acid produced by bacteria is no joke! It is a scientific fact that when the pH in the mouth drops below 5.5 demineralization of any enamel takes place. The acid producing bacteria eat away at the enamel that we call cavities. If you are getting cavities, it is not because your enamel is ‘softer’ than someone else; you have risk factors that are keeping your mouth too acidic. Ask your doctor what risk factors you can change and what elevated pH products are right for you.
MYTH: Filling my cavity cures the disease.
FACT: Only medical treatment can change the bacteria that cause cavities. Drilling and filling is a necessary intervention when the cavity has reached a point of significant damage. However, patching a hole in the tooth does not address the larger issue of the biofilm infection. Once a biofilm is infected the bacteria must be treated with the appropriate agents before long term health can be achieved. Patching holes in teeth with no biofilm therapy is like building a deck on a house while it is burning down; the work won’t last.