5 Truths About Cavities That May Surprise You

Most of us have a fairly good understanding of what causes cavities and how to prevent them. Or do we?

We brush twice a day for two minutes and floss once a day. We get regular checkups. We limit sugar (or at least try to).

But there are a few long standing myths out there that many of us believe to be fact. Here’s a list of a few that may be new news to you.

5 Truths About Cavities That May Surprise You

Myth: Kids are more likely to get cavities than adults

Fact: Due to the use of sealants, fluoridated water, and education on the importance of preventative care, the decay seen in school-age children has decreased significantly over the last 20 years, according to Kimberly A. Harms, DDS, an American Dental Association consumer advisor and former president of the Minnesota Dental Association.

Harms says the increase in decay has been seen in people over 65. One thought is this is due to medications used that may decrease the amount of saliva produced. Saliva plays a critical role in fighting decay by neutralizing acids.

Myth: All fillings eventually need replacing

Fact: This is not a hard and fast rule, but rather an assumption based on the odds of something happening to cause the filling to weaken. Harms reminds us that “fillings do have a life expectancy,” but wear and tear on the tooth, oral hygiene, and clenching or grinding are what affect the filling’s ability to continue protecting the tooth. If the filling has a cavity form around it or it breaks down for any reason, replacing will be recommended. Regular visits to the dentist are key to catching any filling changes before they present new problems, but until such time, it will rarely be recommended to replace a filling based on an arbitrary expiration date.

Myth: If you have a cavity, you’ll know it

Fact: Catching a cavity early, before any pain is felt, is much preferred. Routine checkups allow for this. Harms reminds us that a cavity left to advance increases the chance of needing “much more expensive procedures, like root canals.” Once a cavity is formed, it will only continue to grow. It will never repair itself and therefore must be treated. The sooner the better.

Myth: Cavities are the only reason for a root canal

Fact: Speaking of root canals, cavities are one reason but not the only time a root canal could be needed. A root canal is used to treat a damaged nerve, located inside a tooth. While decay can penetrate to the nerve and cause damage, so can other traumatic experiences such as a tooth fracture, crack, or accident.

Myth: Sensitivity in teeth means you have a cavity 

Fact: There are many reasons teeth can be sensitive. A cavity may be the culprit, but it can also be due to gum recession that is exposing a root or merely hypersensitive teeth. Another possibility is brushing with a hard bristled brush or applying too much pressure. This can over time wear down the enamel that protects the nerves. Discuss any sensitivity with your dentist to understand the source and explore possible treatment options as needed.


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Duane P. Delaune, D.D.S. earned his dental degree at Louisiana State University School of Dentistry, where he graduated fifth in the class. Delaune Dental began in 1990 with the passion of providing great customer service and exceptional dental care. Dr. Delaune loves the wilderness and often hikes or goes backpacking.

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