Cavities do run in the family … but

Posted .

We often get the question from patients: “Why am I getting cavities now?” This usually comes from patients who have not had cavities in the past or for a while and brushes and flosses teeth daily. The assumption across our patient population seems to be that this is an “either, or” situation. Unfortunately it is not that simple.

Studies have demonstrated that cavities have a genetic and environmental component. In other words, if one or both have your parents had “soft teeth”, you may have them too. But this does not mean that you cannot control your risk of cavities.

Cavities cannot exist in the absence of “sugar” and bacteria that eat that sugar. In our society, we take in an abundance of processed foods, of which one of the main components is “sugar”. A lot of people mistake “sugar” for something sweet. This is not accurate. “Sugar” is more accurately translated to carbohydrate in this situation. And carbohydrates on your teeth mean bacteria have something to feed on and make acid, which is one of the ways tooth structure is destroyed and cavities are created.

Finally, a component of this equation that is often overlooked: your saliva. Saliva changes over a lifetime and is affected by water intake, medications, hormones, etc. The ability of your spit to flow into areas of cavities and neutralize acid varies.

So, there is lot to the genetic and environmental components to cavities. Do you best brushing and flossing at home, watch your “sugar” intake and make sure to have regular visits with your dentist.