As I’ve mentioned before, adults should not be getting any new cavities. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you the number of adult patients I see who are getting them, and bad ones. The problem is that these adults are often susceptible to cavities, and where one tooth cavity forms, others will soon follow.
In almost all cases, there are four things causing this susceptibility, and together, they create the perfect storm for cavities to form:
- Tooth structure that is more vulnerable (softer enamel that is not highly calcified)
- The presence of cavity-causing bacteria
- A poor diet, high in refined carbohydrates such as sugary drinks and processed food
- Poor oral hygiene habits
The good news is cavities are 100 percent avoidable because there are certain things you can easily control, like your diet and how you are removing bacteria from your teeth. In addition, we can catch cavities before they go all the way through the enamel using bitewing x-rays every six months. Looking at the patient’s x-ray film, I can identify lesions (early cavities) that have the potential of becoming a cavity.
To be proactive, I recommend filling lesions on a patient with a softer tooth structure before they become cavities. However, if the patient has a stronger tooth structure and the lesion isn’t all the way through the enamel, I recommend two things to stop the cavity in its tracks:
1. Use Xylitol products at least five times per day
Xylitol is a sugar, but it’s different than glucose. Bacteria cannot metabolize Xylitol, meaning that it does not produce the acid that causes cavities. In addition, it increases pH levels in the mouth. This is important because cavities form when pH levels are too low.
If you have cavities forming, Xylitol will actually help re-mineralize your teeth and build up enamel. I recommend exposing your teeth to Xylitol five times a day. There are toothpastes, mouth washes, mists, mints and gum you can buy that will help you get five exposures a day. You can even go as far as putting Xylitol sweeteners – instead of other artificial sweeteners or sugar – in your coffee or tea.
2. Brush with a prescription strength Fluoride toothpaste once a day
Fluoride acts like a magnet that attracts calcium into lesions on the enamel, thereby hardening the tooth structure and reducing the risk of cavities. For patients who begin to develop lesions on their enamel, I recommend a prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste called Prevident. Use this before bed, and the Xylitol toothpaste in the morning and after lunch.
For patients who have begun to form cavities, this routine is a one-two punch. The Xylitol will reduce pH levels and the fluoride will re-mineralize the tooth structure. Together, this can restore enamel and reverse the effects of these early-stage cavities.
If you’re an adult and you’re still getting cavities, call our office to set up a consultation and start addressing your cavity problems today.