Understanding Cavities and Ways to Prevent Them

Extracted tooth showing extreme dental decay.

Dental Decay

Dental Decay is the outcome of strep mutans and lactobacillus activity in the oral microflora due to consumption of sugar/starchy food. Both these bacteria are marked as dental caries causing bacteria. This is one part of the problem.

  • Sugar + bacteria=Acid[Low oral pH]
  • Acid+Tooth=Dental Decay
  • Lack of minerals in the diet (calcium deficiency, magnesium deficiency and phosphorus deficiency)
  • Lack of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K, especially vitamin D deficiency)
  • Too much consumption of phytic acid-rich foods
  • Too much consumption of processed sugar

All these factors are conductive to drop in the oral ph which is the first step towards cavity formation.

How do I prevent cavities?

Keep Track of What You Are Eating.

Snacking: Especially among children and toddlers on crackers, chips, pop tarts and food that are mainly simple sugars[carbohydrates] cause the ph to drop making the mouth conducive to cavity formation. Nocturnal snacking among adult can cause active rampant decay. Nursing bottles left in the mouth while the baby falls asleep can lead to nursing bottle decay. The goal is to always wash down you mouth with water after any snacking to revert the ph back to normal.

Energy drinks and soda: Gatorade has 56gms of sugar every 32 ounces. Simple sugars will cause the ph of the mouth to drop. The cavities formed from these drinks include the smooth surface cavities-most polished surfaces of teeth like around the gumline and facial surfaces, which are otherwise less prone to decay. When you are initially trying to quit these habits try replacing with seltzer water or just water with a dash of lemon, unlike popular belief lemon water is actually alkaline and not acidic. Keep in mind seltzer water, sparkling water all have a ph of 3-4 and should be used in moderation to be able to quit the soda habit and be eventually replaced with water.

Medications: Dry mouth is the outcome of many medications you might be taking, always check with your doctor to see if they can prescribe you alternatives that can help improve your salivary flow. Dry mouth is more likely to be associated with root surface caries as seen more in the older age group.

Healthy snacking: Refer to the guide on Ph and food to know what kind of food cause low ph. whole foods- avacados, Raw cacao infused raw milks, Cut veggie stick with home made ranch, dried crunchy veggies, check the label if bought from grocery store for sugar and additives, Kefir and yogurts without added sugar. Snack on Arginine rich snacks. Arginine is a Prebiotic, meaning it feeds the good bacteria in the mouth. It also is alkaline which helps make your oral environment alkaline (a basic pH.) Snacks rich is Arginine are nuts, sunflower seeds, spinach, soy, and seafood.

Try oil pulling: refer to benefits and ways to oil pull in my pervious posts.

Add a probiotic to your lifestyle: Evidence suggests oral probiotics may help to prevent tooth decay. The best known method is by inhibiting strep mutans. Probiotic benefits are mainly targeted for tooth decay prevention.

If you’re wondering how probiotics benefits can help your teeth:

Compete against strep mutans. Certain strains are known to directly stop strep mutans from overgrowing. Work together in biofilm – teaming up in dental plaque to stop harmful bugs growing in the first place. Produce antimicrobials and enzymes. These kill bugs like strep mutans and some lactobacilli. Communicate with the immune system to ensure the correct response to harmful bugs.Heal the mouth. They act as anti-inflammatories and help the healing processes of the oral cavity.

Xylitol gum and products: Xylitol comes from the plant cell wall, from plants and hardwood trees such as the birch tree. The Streptococcus bacteria ingest it and it renders them useless. They are unable to secrete the acid that lowers the pH in the mouth, which causes tooth decay. They are also unable to secrete the sticky goo that builds up on our teeth as a biofilm, which is known as plaque. The Streptococcus bacteria also cannot replicate, their population decreases, and more beneficial bacteria populate the mouth leading to an increase in the pH. The better Xylitol products contain the bioavailable minerals of calcium and phosphorus which help to remineralize the enamel surface and even reverse early decay. Xylitol is available in the form of gums, nasal sprays, mouth washes, paste etc.

Alkalizing tooth paste: Use Mineralizing Toothpaste. There are few fluoride-free toothpaste with clean ingredients that are relatively economical.