How At-Risk Are You for Cavities?

Have a plan. It’s solid advice for reducing anxiety in situations in which you feel you have no control. If it works for natural disasters, chances are, it will work for one of the other high-anxiety situations that we face a lot more frequently than dangerous weather—going to the dentist.

Instead of approaching the chair with fear and trepidation, you could approach the dentist’s chair with the comfort of a plan. As we know, a good plan is built on a firm foundation. The firm foundation of a good oral care plan is a risk assessment. So, it’s vital to understand what your level of risk is and how that risk is measured.


Can cavity risk really be measured?

In a word, yes. Some people have been told that they just have bad teeth and can’t avoid cavities. That’s simply not true. As understanding has grown about the cavity process, our ability to measure the risk of that process occurring in any mouth has grown as well. Now, using simple, quantifiable diagnostic criteria, your CAMBRA dentist can classify your risk and help you build a treatment plan specific to your oral health needs.


How is Cavity Risk Measured?

A CAMBRA risk assessment is the tool the dentist uses to help establish your cavity risk level. It requires a combination of patient health history and clinical examination of the teeth. There are multiple versions of a caries risk assessment form, but they all attempt to organize risk into meaningful groups to help dentists develop treatment plans and patients make better oral health choices.


So What Factors Increase Cavity Risk?

Some risk factors are pretty easy to guess. Having had a number of recent (the last 3 years) cavities increases the chances you’ll have more in the near future. We’ve heard for years that a diet high in sugary foods increases your cavity risk; that’s true. Good home dental care and regular dental visits decrease your odds of developing cavities.

Some factors that increase risk are more subtle. Caregivers or siblings who have cavities in the last two years increase the odds you will develop a cavity. Having a developmental, physical, or mental disability can make oral care more difficult and increase cavity risk. Even having braces can increase cavity risk.

Of course, come factors are things that many people might overlook. Chemo and radiation are major risk factors for cavities, but not a side effect of cancer treatment that is regularly discussed. Some people are unaware of the link between chronic dry mouth and cavity formation. If you take certain drying medications you can have an elevated cavity risk, too.

If you want to know for sure what your cavity risk level is, visit a CAMBRA dentist and have a proper risk assessment. Although it might be tempting to try to self-assess online by googling risk forms, a dentist’s trained judgement is necessary to get the most accurate risk assessment.


When you and your dentist build your treatment plan, if he or she recommends products for a high cavity risk, make sure you use them regularly to get the most benefit. The whole point of knowing your dental risk and building a treatment plan is to take meaningful action to address that risk.

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