Here’s a scary stat: Over one-quarter of all children and adults have cavities that are left untreated. If you want to avoid getting cavities in the first place, you need to know the facts about keeping your teeth healthy. So, here’s a true/false quiz about cavities, courtesy of WebMD and Kimberly A. Harms – who’s an American Dental Association consumer advisor:
- First, true or false: Sugar is the prime cause of cavities. This is kind of true, and kind of false. It’s the acid produced by bacteria in your mouth that causes cavities. However, when you eat anything with carbohydrates – and sugar is a carbohydrate – the bacteria become active and produce acid that eats into your teeth. So what can you do to protect your teeth? Chew sugarless gum. Chewing gum increases saliva - which lowers levels of enamel-damaging acids and flushes out food particles and cavity-causing bacteria.
- Next, true or false: Kids are a lot more likely to get cavities than adults. FALSE. In fact, decay in school-aged children has been cut in HALF over the last 20 years. Why? It’s all down to sealants and fluoridated water. A lot more kids are getting dental sealants - a thin plastic film painted on the teeth to prevent plaque buildup. However, there’s been an increase in cavities in senior citizens! Why? Some of the medications seniors take dry out the mouth – which reduces saliva, and like we just mentioned, saliva helps fight tooth decay.
- If you have a cavity, you’ll know it. FALSE! Mild tooth decay doesn’t actually cause symptoms. The pain we associate with cavities only happens when tooth decay is more advanced and causes damage to the nerve.
- Cavities are more likely between teeth. That’s TRUE. Anywhere bacteria can hide is a place where decay can happen, and you can’t really clean between your teeth with your toothbrush. That’s why you’ve got to floss. Know this: Flossing should come before brushing. Flossing FIRST will help stir up all the plaque and food particles lodged between your teeth.