Five myths about dental cavities

Published: Aug. 2, 2019 at 3:53 PM EDT
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Studies show virtually all Americans will experience tooth decay at some point in their lives, and the numbers are increasing.

"We saw it increasing in adults age 21 to 64, and we saw it in adults over age 65," Nova Southeastern University dean and professor Dr. Linda Niessen said.

But how much do you know about cavities?

"Dental research is showing us that, in fact, some people are much more prone to tooth decay or dental cavities than others," Niessen said.

One common myth: Only sugar causes cavities. The fact is anything that makes your mouth more acidic can lead to cavities. Starches like bread or pasta can stimulate bacteria on teeth and produce enamel-attacking acids.

Another myth: You'll always feel a cavity. Some cavities don't cause any symptoms, so it's important to see your dentist for regular checkups.

Myth No. 3: Children can't get cavities in their baby teeth. The truth is any enamel can decay. Many people believe fillings will last forever, but most only last for seven to 10 years.

One last myth: You can't get a cavity on a filled tooth. Unfortunately, fillings wear down, and the tooth can still decay around the edges. The good news is, the better you care for your teeth, the less likely you are to have cavities.

A team of researchers at Oregon Health and Science University School of Dentistry has recently developed a new type of filling that uses a protective additive which could last twice as long. The compound used is the same used to make car bumpers and wood decks strong.


REPORT #2660

BACKGROUND: Tooth decay is the major cause of tooth loss in children while periodontal (gum) disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults. Dental caries are considered an infectious, transmissible disease. About 78 percent of Americans have had at least one cavity by age 17, and 80 percent of the U.S. population has some form of periodontal disease. The biggest oral health problem for infants is early tooth decay, known as baby bottle tooth decay. This results when babies routinely fall asleep with bottles filled with sugary liquids such as milk, formula and juice. Toothbrushes should be replaced every two to three months and after illnesses like a cold or flu. Three out of four patients don't change their toothbrush as often as they should. Tobacco is the primary cause of oral cancers. Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day or using smokeless tobacco quadruples the risk of developing oral cancer. Dental hygienists screen for serious health problems, such as HIV infection, oral cancer, eating disorders, substance abuse and diabetes. (Source:

CAVITY PREVENTION: Many of the foods you eat cause the bacteria in your mouth to produce acids. Sugary foods are sources of plaque, but starches such as bread, crackers, and cereal cause acids to form. The dental plaque created from bacteria produces substances that irritate the gums, making them red, sensitive, and susceptible to bleeding. This can lead to gum disease in which gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets that fill with bacteria and pus. If the gums are not treated, the bone around the teeth can be destroyed and teeth may become loose or needing to be removed. The best way to prevent tooth decay and remove plaque is by brushing and cleaning between your teeth every day. Brushing removes plaque from the tooth surfaces. The size and shape of your toothbrush should fit your mouth and allow you to reach all areas easily. It is recommended to use an antimicrobial toothpaste containing fluoride which helps protect your teeth from decay. Dentists also recommend flossing at least once a day to remove plaque from between the teeth where the toothbrush can't reach. Flossing is essential to prevent gum disease. (Source:

TOOTH REGENERATION BREAKTHROUGH: Researchers recently discovered certain drugs, including one developed to treat Alzheimer's, stimulate innate self-repair mechanisms. Paul Sharpe, a bioengineer at King's College London, and his colleagues, discovered a new way to coax teeth to regrow themselves in mice. Like skin, teeth can usually repair minor mishaps themselves. When teeth remain uncleaned for too long, acid can eat through the enamel and begin dissolving underlying layers of dense, bony tissue called dentin. When dentin is seriously injured, stem cells located in the tooth's soft, innermost layer (dental pulp) morph into cells called odontoblasts, which secrete new tissue. Sharpe suspected he could dramatically boost teeth's natural healing ability by mobilizing stem cells in the dental pulp. Earlier research had demonstrated the Wnt signaling pathway, a particular cascade of molecules involved in cell-to-cell communication, is essential for tissue repair and stem cell development in many parts of the body such as the skin, intestines and brain. So, maybe exposing damaged teeth to drugs that stimulate Wnt signaling would similarly encourage the activity of stem cells in the dental pulp, giving teeth a kind of regenerative superpower. If the treatment eventually becomes part of the dentist's standard tool kit, scientists say it would easily be one of the field's most important advances in 50 years. (Source: