Cavity Prevention 101

Historically dentistry has approached dental caries (cavities) through surgical intervention, in other words, drilling on teeth. This leads to a lifetime of replaced fillings, broken teeth that are weakened by the fillings, and tooth loss with the original cause of the cavity and risk factors never addressed.

In 2003, the California Dental Association was faced with a huge dilemma of a large less fortunate and homeless population, and an inadequate number of dentists to provide dental services to this group. They decided that preventing the cavities in the first place was the best solution - by modifying and correcting cavity risk factors, increasing preventive and protective factors. Hence, cavity management by risk assessment (CAMBRA) was developed and is an evidence-based approach to preventing and treating the cause of dental cavities at an earlier stage instead of waiting for the irreversible damage to teeth. Their philosophy requires an understanding that dental cavities/caries is a bacterial infection.

Risk factors to cavities include bad bacteria, in other words, bacteria that create acid as a byproduct from the digestion of refined carbohydrates and starches. Diets low in refined carbohydrates and starches reduce your risk to dental cavities because the bacteria that produce the acid don’t thrive.

A second risk factor is the consumption of acidic beverages such as soda (diet or regular), sports drinks and many other common beverages, as they are very destructive to our teeth.

A third risk factor is dry mouth. 70% of the top 200 prescribed medications cause dry mouth as a side effect. Saliva is needed to dilute the acids in our mouth. The lack of saliva greatly increases the damage acid has on our teeth.

Last but not least, a fourth risk factor is poor oral hygiene. Improved oral hygiene removes the food particles on and between your teeth that are the food source for the bacteria and it breaks up the biofilm, a smear layer of debris, on the teeth where bacteria hide and produce acid.

So… besides better oral hygiene, eating fewer carbohydrates and starches, avoiding acidic drinks, and trying to avoid dry mouth… what are the other preventive measures are out there? Stay tuned for the answer.