Q: How Can I Prevent Cavities?

By Dr. Cheryl Bresnahan

Cavity TargetMany cavities can be prevented.  Cavities are caused from over 50 different types of bacteria that live harmoniously together in your mouth.

Other main contributing factors are how often a sugar substance is consumed, if your diet is high in acidic foods or beverages, the amount of saliva present in your mouth which can become altered by medications, the genetic makeup of bacteria in your mouth that is influenced by genetics, and your oral hygiene practices and effectiveness at removing plaque especially before bed.

The Role of Plaque

Plaque, which is the substance that is constantly forming on our teeth, provide a method for which the bacteria can stick to the tooth.  The bacteria eat sugars and then excrete acids, and these acids eat holes in your teeth which we know as cavities.

The best way to prevent cavities is to brush and floss all the plaque away in your mouth so that the bacteria cannot sit in direct contact with the tooth surface.  If you are still having a problem with getting cavities, an excellent method to disrupt plaque formation is to have a special tray constructed at our office that just fits your mouth and insert a low dose solution of our whitening product once a week for one hour.  This has method has proven to disrupt complex plaque formation that contributes to cavities.

The Role of Saliva

Saliva has a big influence in getting cavities.  Saliva is a buffer and can neutralize the acids that the bacteria produce.  Studies reveal that it takes 20 minutes after having a sugar substance for the saliva to neutralize the acid.  The worst thing that you can do is take a sip of soda, regular or diet because the diet still has acid, every 20 minutes because then your mouth will be in an acid environment longer and cavities will result.

When someone sleeps, the saliva in their mouth almost turns off which means that there is no saliva going across the plaque to neutralize the acids.  If you didn’t brush and floss completely to remove the plaque before bed, the bacteria that cause decay sit in the plaque, sugar is sitting in the plaque, and the bacteria eat the sugar all night long and cavities will result.

If you have a dry mouth as a result of medications, please consult your doctor if the dosage of the medication can be changed or if there is an alternative medication that will work.  If there is none, then there are some helpful hints in my Dry Mouth posting.

Your Best Defense: Fluoridated Toothpaste

Fluoride kills the bacteria cell which is why it is important to use fluoridated toothpaste.  Everyone will miss some plaque somewhere and if there is also fluoride in the plaque that you missed, it can kill the bacteria cell instead of it feasting all night long on the sugar in the plaque.

We recommend that you not rinse your mouth out with water after you have completed brushing your teeth.  You want to spit, spit, spit all the toothpaste out and then go to bed that way.  Studies reveal that there is still fluoride in your plaque fighting cavities when you wake up in the morning.

Start a Dietary Log! We’ll Even Help You!

If you are still getting cavities despite your best efforts and want help to prevent them, the best way to evaluate your situation is to make a dietary log of everything that goes into your mouth for one week including what food or drink was consumed and at what time.  I will be happy to provide this service at no charge to any existing patient that wants help.  We can evaluate it and together , so we can find a solution to help prevent future cavities.

Dr. Cheryl Bresnahan is a licensed dentist and the founder of Dental Perfections in Whitewater, WI. If you'd like to ask her a question, please visit the Ask Dr. Cheryl section of our Web site.