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ACID! THE TRUTH ABOUT CAVITIES
Summer is in full swing, and it is HOT — so hot that we had two portable air conditioners running in our office in addition to our main central air. What could be better in this weather than an ice cold summer beverage? Many people reach for sodas, but, for the health conscious, juice may be a smarter option. However, sugar can be hiding where you least expect it. Take it from my daughter Katie. Katie is now 16 years old and training to be a dental assistant. When she was around 3–6 years old, every time she came for a checkup, I would see cavities starting to form. Being a dentist, as well as her mother, this was very frustrating. She was brushing and flossing, and we were limiting her consumption of candy, but she was still developing cavities! I had to know why. Then, I discovered an interesting area of the dental industry: cariology, the study of what causes cavities and how to prevent and manage them. Turns out, there are almost 50 years of research on the subject! For my child’s own dental health, I applied what I learned, thanks to a process called Caries Management by Risk Assessment (CAMBRA). I saw improvements right away, and my daughter hasn't had a single cavity since. So, what’s the secret? A generation ago, the answer would have been regular brushing and flossing, and
these are still important. But the real key is acid. The mouth’s acid is influenced by the quality and quantity of saliva and bacteria. Sugar is related to cavities because bacteria uses it as food, and, thus, the bacterial population increases, as well as the production of bacterial waste, acid. When dentists say sugar, we don’t just mean sweet desserts. We mean anything that becomes sugar in the mouth. Fermentable carbohydrates, including milk, bread, and pasta, break down into sugar. An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but apples are essentially fermented carbohydrates, which your saliva turns into sugar immediately. Katie loved her cereal and yogurt in the morning, and, while these foods aren’t normally associated with cavities, they both break down into sugar. No wonder cavities were plaguing her! Bacteria in your saliva feed on sugar and secrete acid in the process. This acid is what attacks the enamel of your teeth, causing them to soften and decay, and, eventually, form cavities. Everyone has slightly different saliva and types of bacteria in the mouth. As a result, some are at greater risk of developing frequent cavities. So, how can you prevent cavities? Oddly enough, it’s pretty simple. The best thing to do is rinse! After a meal, drink water to clean out any excess left from foods or drinks. This prevents
Smiles from Katie and Dr. Weddle!
sugar and acid from sitting in the mouth and on the teeth.
It’s important to note that you can spread cavity-causing bacteria by something as simple as blowing on your child's food. Parents infect their children with their bacteria all the time. So, as a parent, one of the most important things you can do is take care of your own dental health. Finally, remember to schedule regular checkups! Prevention is always easier than treatment, and, at Great Smiles of New Jersey, we are always exploring new ways of evaluating your oral health. Stop by before summer is over, and you may even get a chance to see Katie learning the business! If you have any other questions or concerns regarding your or your family’s dental health, feel free to reach out at 908-561-0225 or visit our website anytime at GreatSmilesNJ.com.
To Great Smiles and Better Health,
–Dr. Michelle Wedd le
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