The causes and finding the right solution By Rhonda R. Savage, DDS, Uptown Dental & Wellness Center
“I floss and brush every day, but I’m the one with dental issues. My spouse does nothing, and he never has dental problems.”
Why would this be the case? Unfortunately, I hear this complaint quite often. There are a number of possible causes; some you can control, some you can’t control. Let’s talk about these issues and some solutions.
Out of your control
Bacteria that cause cavities or gum disease (some people have both issues) love a warm, moist, dark environment. That’s your mouth! The strength of your enamel is a hereditary issue. When I’m drilling to fix teeth, some people have enamel that’s hard as a rock; for others, it’s like butter. The “butter” type of enamel is not as resistant to the bacteria. In and out of your control
Sharing bacteria with the baby: We’re not born with the populations of bacteria that cause gum disease or cavities. There’s a “window of infectivity” from the age of 6 months to 14 months, where babies acquire the bacterial populations from family members (or childhood friends). Sharing utensils and kissing babies on the mouth are two common ways to share bacteria. Another one: The baby drops a pacifier, mom picks it up, licks it and sticks it back into the baby’s mouth. Ugh!
Medications: Medications that cause dry mouth or radiation treatment for cancer allows bacteria to stick to your teeth and cause decay. If you can improve your health and eliminate the medication(s), then this is in your control.
Acid reflux: If you snore or possibly have sleep apnea, you can have silent acid reflux. Bacteria love an acidic environment. Devastation of your teeth will happen quickly if this issue isn’t addressed. Hereditarily, sleep apnea can run in families, and you can’t change this risk factor. However, weight gain or being overweight can increase the severity of sleep apnea. Fit people can also have sleep apnea, as can children. If your acid reflux is due strictly to diet, you can change your diet.
In your control
Pregnancy: “My pregnancies caused me to have cavities. They sucked all of the enamel out of my teeth.” This is a fallacy. Decay during pregnancy is due to sugar intake and/or acid exposure caused by vomiting or acid reflux. Also, lack of hygiene can be lessened due to an increased gag reflex. Babies cannot suck the enamel away, but acid and bacteria certainly can! If you experience this issue, do not brush after vomiting or a reflux attack. Rinse with 8 ounces of warm water plus ½ to 1 teaspoon of baking soda to neutralize the acid. Wait 30 minutes to brush.
Sugar: Sugar is your enemy. Sugar feeds bacteria. It’s not the amount, it’s the frequency. Watch snacking. Sugar is in an apple and a chocolate bar; bacteria aren’t picky. Sugar also causes inflammation. Periodontal disease is an inflammatory process. Lack of good hygiene: Talk with your dentist about prevention. Floss, brush and use prescription fluoride toothpaste or an essential oil toothpaste containing xylitol.