Patient Education

Myths and Facts About Dental Cavities

Published on August 12, 2022
kids heads together

Now that summer is here, camps and vacations make it difficult to limit our kids’ sugary snacks and monitor their brushing habits. Here are some facts about cavities to keep in mind during these long, hot days of summer.

1. Sugar Is the Prime Cause of Cavities

True and False.

In reality, it’s the acid produced by bacteria in your mouth that causes cavities. What the bacteria do, however, is eat carbohydrates — and sugar is one of them. Rice, potatoes, bread, and fruits and vegetables are also carbohydrates.

When you eat anything with carbs, the bacteria become active and produce acid that then eats into your tooth.

Once they do that, the bacteria now have a nice little hole to live in where your toothbrush and floss can’t reach. The bacteria continue to metabolize carbs, produce acids, and your cavity just keeps getting bigger.

Also, it’s not the amount of carbohydrates you eat that causes tooth decay, but the length of time your teeth are exposed. If you eat a lot of carbs for lunch, that’s one big exposure. But if you spend the day sipping sugary drinks, that’s continuous exposure — and much more dangerous for your teeth.

2. All Fillings Eventually Need Replacing


An amalgam or composite filling needs to be replaced if it breaks down or a cavity forms around it, or if the tooth fractures. If none of those problems occur, you can keep the same filling for life.

Fillings do have a life expectancy, but it depends on things like tooth wear and oral hygiene habits. If you brush your teeth twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste, and floss or use an interdental cleaner once a day, you’ll have less tooth decay and your fillings may last longer.

3. If You Have a Cavity, You Will Know It


Mild tooth decay doesn’t cause symptoms. The pain associated with cavities comes when tooth decay is more advanced and causes damage to the nerve.

Allowing tooth decay to advance can “lead to much more expensive procedures, like root canals. That’s why regular dental checkups are so important.

Also, once a cavity starts, it doesn’t repair itself. A cavity will always grow once you get to a point where you can’t clean it out any longer. Once decay gets into the dentist of the tooth — below the enamel — it just continues to grow.

By Ron White DDS