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Note From Dr. Van

NoteS From
Dr. Van

Exploring Common Causes of Cavities

Scientific data and decades of research on the causes of tooth decay have led to the knowledge that allows Dr. Nicole Van and her team to approach prevention with predictable results. In this blog from Dr. Van, the most common causes as well as prevention tips are discussed for ways to lower the probability of cavities.

1. Home Care and Professional Visits

Particles left over from daily foods and drinks produce sugars and acids that form into a bacterial biofilm, leading to the breakdown of enamel. Establishing a daily routine to floss and brush all the teeth within the entire mouth at least two times per day will help to strengthen the enamel and prevent its erosion.  Using a toothpaste that contains fluoride during brushing has been proven to dramatically reduce the risk of cavities.  

Studies show that people that have lived in areas without fluoridated tap water during their stages of childhood tooth development are more susceptible to enamel weakness. For patients that seem to develop cavities often, more frequent professional cleaning visits throughout the year allow for prevention of cavities as well as early detection and resolution while the issues remain small.  Dr. Van may also prescribe a professional-grade fluoride treatment for daily home use to aid in boosting enamel strength.


2.  Diets High in Sugar, Starch and Acids

Decay-causing bacteria are attracted to starch and sugars in foods, creating an acid environment in the mouth which can lead to tooth decay. Drinks such as coffee, juices, sodas and sports drinks are common culprits. A high consumption of acidic foods and drinks creates an environment where the enamel becomes vulnerable. People that reduce their intake of these types of foods and drinks have found that their frequency of cavities decline over time.

3.  Smoking and Oral Tobacco

Both smoking and using chewing or smokeless tobacco have been shown to contribute to a higher risk of cavities as the foundation of the teeth becomes vulnerable. Research shows that smokers are more likely to develop cavities, gum disease, oral cancer, and systemic health issues.  Altering lifestyle habits that remove tobacco use can create a positive impact on overall oral and systemic health.


4. Dehydration and Xerostomia

Saliva neutralizes acid and naturally washes away food particles and bacteria from teeth and gums. Staying hydrated produces a healthy amount of saliva, lowering the risk of enamel breakdown.

Xerostomia, a condition also known as “dry mouth”, may be caused by some systemic illnesses and is also known to be a side effect of certain medications.  In this situation, the saliva flow is deficient and not effective enough to cleanse away the bacteria biofilm that accumulates on teeth. This may lead to overall enamel weakness, causing the teeth to be more prone to cavities.  


5. Teeth Clenching and Grinding

People that exhibit signs of clenching and grinding their teeth, also known as “bruxism”, will show fracture and craze lines in their enamel.  These visibly small, but distinct lines are pathways for sugars and acids from foods to get trapped and as a result lead to enamel erosion. These findings have been shown to lead to cavities even in patients with the best brushing and flossing habits. Often, the use of a nightguard appliance can be recommended as a protective measure to decrease the damage from these fracture lines.


6. Genetics

Genetics play an important role in the makeup of enamel and saliva.  The varying densities and strengths of enamel as well as differing pH levels in saliva are found to be linked to an individual’s DNA. With the knowledge of familial risk factors, Dr. Van can develop a long-term  preventive plan to help lower the overall risk of cavities.

Get the Care You Need at Dr. Van’s Office in McLean

Contact us online to schedule a consultation, or give our McLean office a call at (703) 556-0091 to get started on learning more about restoring cavities and preventing future risks. With more than 30 years of experience, Dr. Van and the team have been able to work with various therapies that lead to successful results.

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