15 Myths and Facts About Cavities
- Sugar Is the Only Thing That Causes Cavities
Myth, but it’s almost a fact
“The truth is, acid produced by bacteria in your mouth is the cause of cavities,” says Kimberly A. Harms, DDS, an American Dental Association spokeswoman.
Any carb you eat can start that process. That includes sugar as well as rice, potatoes, bread, fruits, and vegetables
- Acid Causes Tooth Decay
“The bacteria responsible for tooth decay produces acids. Eating acidic foods often throughout the day (including juice and soda) can enhance that process,” says Misty Horn-Blake, DDS, a dentist in Johnson City, TN.
So, go light on the acid and practice good oral care.
- Kids Get Way More Cavities Than Adults
Myth. Thanks to fluoride in tap water, “we’ve actually cut decay in school-aged children by half in the last 20 years,” Harms says.
- Aspirin Next to a Tooth Will Help a Toothache
- All Fillings Will Need to Replaced
Myth. “Fillings do have a life expectancy,” Harms says, but it depends on things like tooth wear and oral hygiene.
If you keep up with your dental routine, you’re less likely to have problems, and your fillings may last longer.
- You’ll Know When You Have a Cavity
Myth. “Sometimes you will know it, but at that point, it has usually spread to larger proportions than it would have if it had been found at a routine dental screening,” Horn-Blake says.
With timely checkups, your dentist can find a cavity before it causes pain.
- Once a Tooth Is Treated, the Decay Stops
Fact. Once you get a cavity filled, the decay spot is removed. And if you take care of your teeth, the decay from the spot that was filled will most likely stay clear.
- Cavities Are More Likely Between Teeth
Fact. “Anywhere bacteria can hide that you can’t, or aren’t able to, reach with a toothbrush or floss is a likely place for decay,” Harms says.
Use a mouthwash to help reach tough spots.
- Clenching and Grinding May Lead to Cavities
Myth, but not far from fact. Cavities come from acid-producing bacteria. But clenching and grinding are among the worst things you can do to your teeth, Harms says.
With normal chewing, teeth touch for a tiny fraction of a millisecond, which causes little stress. But clenching and grinding put a huge amount of pressure on your teeth. The strain can eventually cause cracks and fractures of your teeth, which speeds up tooth decay.
- Gaps in Teeth Lead to Cavities
Myth. “Bigger gaps are easier to keep clean,” Harms says. So as long as they are free of bacteria, wide spaces are less prone to decay.
Keep an eye on small gaps, though. Food may get stuck there and lead to cavities if it’s not cleaned out.
- Chips and Cracks in Teeth Lead to Decay
Fact. Cracks and chips create a home for bacteria where your toothbrush won’t reach. This can hasten decay. Use a fluoride mouth rinse to get to hidden spots.
- Sensitivity in Teeth Means You Have Decay
Myth. “While cavities can cause some sensitivities to cold and sweets, not all do,” Horn-Blake says. Other things might be making your teeth hurt.
- Cavities Are the Only Reason for Root Canals
Myth. You need a root canal if the nerve inside a tooth is damaged. An unfilled cavity can lead to a root canal, but so can other things, like clenching and grinding.
- Babies Can’t Get Cavities
Myth. Primary or “baby” teeth can get cavities that spread to other teeth if left untreated.
- You Have to Brush, Floss, and Rinse to Prevent Cavities
Fact. “Absolutely! Prevention is the key,” Harms says. You need to remove bacteria from teeth.
Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, and floss and rinse daily. If bacteria are removed daily from every area of your tooth, “you won’t get cavities,” Harms says.