I hear this question almost daily. “Doc, I brush my teeth everyday, why do I KEEP getting cavities?”
Most people have no idea that it is possible to get a cavity under or around an existing filling. Actually, once a tooth has had a cavity in need of repair, it is actually easier for a cavity to regrow around that filling than it ever was trying to get through that hard enamel shell the first time. I wish I could tell my patients that my fillings will last forever, but the truth is most fillings have an average life span of about 15 years (depending on size, location, and type of filling placed). That number is even lower if you are not brushing twice a day (at least), flossing every day and getting regular cleanings by a dental professional.
Many patients want to know what can be done to keep existing fillings and crowns in good shape.
Number 1 is FLOSS!
Cavities will form in the one place your toothbrush always misses- between your teeth. Even the most advanced toothbrush will never remove the plaque (bacteria) between your teeth. Those x-rays that we always take at your exam help us see the walls of the teeth where they touch each other. If floss is not regularly “popped” through that contact where your teeth meet then all that food and bacteria just sits there and rots. It eventually chews through your enamel armor. I like to compare it to taking your car or truck to the wash and never washing the sides of the automobile. That’s where all the dirt and muck is flung up on the side panels and it just cakes on the paint.
Number 2 is reduce acid in your diet
We all know to watch out for sugar and sodas right? Acid in our diets is equally responsible for cavities and should be monitored too! These beverages are high in acid:
- Sweet Tea
- All fruit juice drinks and Tomato juice
- Energy drinks
- Coffee with sugar
Number 3 is to eliminate damaging habits such as
- Sucking on lemons and limes
- Sipping on a soda drink throughout your day
- Chewing Ice
- Eating popcorn kernels
- Chewing on pens and pencils
- Biting fingernails
- Tearing open bags and using teeth like scissors
- Smoking or using smokeless tobacco
- Night time snacking after teeth brushing
Number 4 is to treat at-risk health conditions
- Many medications can cause dry mouth
- Clenching and Grinding
- Acid Reflux
Following these suggestions above will go a long way in helping to preserve your existing teeth and dental work. That is money in the bank!!