If you brush and floss regularly, you won’t get a cavity, right? Not necessarily. While good dental habits generally ensure healthier teeth, cavities can still occur—especially in the presence of other risk factors.
Cavities result from dental caries which is caused by oral bacteria. When bacteria accumulate, they can invade the living portion of the tooth. This is referred to as a bacterial infection.
Brushing and flossing your teeth can help prevent cavities and decay, but the following factors can still prevail:
- Oral bacteria – The build-up of bacteria on the surface of the tooth is the first stage of tooth decay. Forming a sticky film called plaque, the bacteria will feed on the carbohydrates and sugars that we consume, resulting in the formation of acids. Acids formed by the bacteria dissolve the mineral bond in the tooth enamel, making it easy for bacteria to penetrate the hardest substance in the body – the teeth. Some strains of bacteria are more aggressive than others. Depending on which type of bacteria you have in your mouth, you could be more prone to cavities than other people.
- Diet – Watching your diet could help you avoid cavities. Minimizing the intake of carbohydrates and sugar will lessen the food supply that sustains oral bacteria.
- Dry mouth – Saliva has minerals that neutralize acids and help in rebuilding the enamel of the teeth. Without a healthy flow of saliva, your dental health will be compromised.
- Tooth shape – The small fissures on the biting surface of your molars and bicuspids trap food particles and become breeding grounds for bacteria. You will be vulnerable to more trapped bacteria if the fissures in your teeth are deep.
- Gum recession – The root of a tooth is exposed when the gums recede. The exposed root is more susceptible to decay.
- Other factors – Some health conditions may contribute to tooth decay. Gastro-esophageal reflux disease creates highly acidic conditions in the mouth, which can exacerbate decay.
Keep up your brushing and flossing to remove trapped food particles that feed the bacteria in your mouth. You should also get a professional cleaning to remove plaque that can harden into tartar. Make sure to see a dentist in conjunction with your cleaning so he or she can check on the overall health of your teeth and advise you of any significant dental problems.