Teeth cleaning by a dentist to prevent cavities min

What to Expect at a Dental Exam Part Two: What Causes Cavities?

You’re at your regularly scheduled dentist appointment and everything seems to be going fine.

But then your dentist says those four words you’ve been dreading.

You have a cavity.”

You thought that you kept your teeth in excellent condition and you can’t see any imperfections, so how did this happen? Asking your dentist to assess how likely you are to get a cavity at your next appointment means that you can have the strongest possible smile.

How can my dentist tell if I am likely to get cavities?

Your dentist may ask you a series of questions surrounding your dental history and your answers combined with their findings will determine your risk.

Do you have enough saliva in your mouth, or have difficulty swallowing food?

Saliva production decreases as a side effect of medication, cancer treatments, mouth-breathing, etc. If you don’t produce enough, you may have more difficulty swallowing food, which increases the risk of choking while eating.

Do you feel or notice any holes on the biting surface of your teeth?

These holes may be a cavity, but they can also be the result of acid erosion related to gastric reflux, bulimia, burping, or repeated vomiting during cancer treatments. This pitting makes the remaining tooth weaker and easier for bacteria to enter, causing cavities.

Are your teeth sensitive to hot, cold, or sweet foods, or do you avoid brushing any part of your mouth?

If your fillings are missing or breaking, your teeth may be more sensitive, but cavities don’t actually cause pain. However, if the roots of your teeth are exposed as a result of your gums receding, the roots are more likely to decay and become sensitive.

Do you have grooves or notches on your teeth near the gumline?

Grooves or notches are related to uneven chewing pressure or very acidic foods and drinks. These notched areas are much more likely to get cavities.

Have you ever broken or chipped your teeth, or had a toothache or cracked filling?

Other than getting injured, your teeth will only break if they are weakened by large fillings, teeth grinding, or chewing with an unbalanced bite. Anything that can break a tooth can also increase the risk of getting cavities.

Do you frequently get food caught between your teeth?

If you don’t remove the food between your teeth, the outer surface of the tooth becomes weaker and more easily broken down by cavity-causing bacteria.

Have you had any cavities in the past three years?

If you have, you are at risk for developing more cavities.

Why does having previous cavities put me at higher risk to get more?

You may have changed your diet, your oral hygiene habits, or your medications. All of these changes can either alter the type of bacteria in your mouth or create an environment where bacteria can easily grow.

If you’ve had cavities recently, you suffer the effects of erosion or abrasion, or if your diet or oral hygiene habits have changed, you will be at greater risk for future problems.

If you’ve never had cavities or it has been many years since you’ve had one, your teeth aren’t worn or chipped, and your teeth are even and straight and your bite is comfortable, you are less likely to get cavities in the future.

The likelihood of you getting cavities will cause your dentist to recommend solutions based on your needs. With that being said, brushing twice a day and flossing daily will go a long way in keeping your teeth healthy.

Dr. Andrea Stevens and her team can assess your cavity risk at your next appointment to help you get the strongest possible smile.

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