Halloween night is as much about safety as it is about fun. While trick-or-treating is typically reserved for children and young teens, even adults indulge in more candy and goodies than they normally would. A major safety concern, aside from the safety of our costumed children, is the damage that our festive indulgence can cause our dental health. After all, sugar is the main cause for cavities, right? Well, not exactly, but it is a significant contributor to tooth decay. Knowing the truth about cavities can help you protect your teeth as you enjoy assaulting them, so Dr. Kania, your Encinitas periodontist, helps clear the myths and brings you the facts about cavity formation and prevention.
Debunking Common Cavity Myths
Myth: Sugar is the main cause of cavities, so refraining from it will prevent tooth decay.
Truth: Sugar helps set the stage for tooth decay to develop, but it is not the main cause. Sugar merely feeds the bacteria in your mouth that turn it into acid, which erodes your tooth enamel until bacteria can slip past and infect the underlying layers of your tooth. Some foods, beverages, and candies are naturally acidic, such as most sour candies, so completely abstaining from sugars is not a guarantee that cavities will not develop. Your best chance of preventing cavities is good oral hygiene.
Myth: I can’t have a cavity because none of my teeth hurt.
Truth: You can have a cavity, even if all of your teeth feel fine. Mild tooth decay does not typically cause discomfort. By the time your tooth becomes sensitive, it is because the decay has reached the interior of your tooth. The layer of tooth underneath enamel, called dentin, contains numerous tiny tubules that lead to the center of the tooth (pulp), where the nerves are located. Attending your dental checkup and cleaning every six months allows your dentist to inspect your teeth for early signs of decay, increasing your chances of early detection and successful treatment.
Myth: If I brush and floss my teeth every day, my cavity will go away.
Truth: No, it won’t. Other than the bundle of nerves and blood vessels in the pulp, your tooth’s structure contains no living cells, meaning it cannot regenerate itself or fight infection by itself. It is possible to arrest decay progression if it is caught at an early stage. This may be done with fluoride. Once decay has set in, the infection must be removed and the damaged part of your tooth restored to prevent the spread of decay and the destruction of your tooth. However, you should continue to brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day, in addition to your six month dental checkups, to help prevent decay from setting in again.
Tooth Decay and Gum Health
With a little care and forethought, you can ensure that your teeth and oral health are protected during and after this Halloween’s feast of treats. While tooth decay does not directly cause gum disease, the same neglect that allows cavities to set in can also allow your gums to become infected by oral bacteria. Proper oral hygiene is good for dental health. If you have questions or are in need of periodontal treatment, contact Dr. Kania at our Encinitas periodontal care office by calling (706) 642-0711. We serve patients from Encinitas, San Diego, Rancho Santa Fe, Del Mar, La Costa, and the neighboring communities.