Is it Decay Immunity or just good Cavity Prevention?
Tooth decay is an international chronic infectious health disease in industrialized and developing countries, especially in young children. Early Childhood Caries (ECC) begins early in life, progresses rapidly, and causes immediate and long-term effects. People suffering from tooth decay, particularly untreated decay, and especially children, can also suffer pain, lack of self-esteem, and social and emotional delay. This begs the question, why do so many other cultures seem to have tooth decay immunity? Can you be immune to cavities or is it just good cavity prevention? Today, Dr. James Fondriest, your Chicago cosmetic dentist at Lake Forest Dental Arts, answers this questions and explores more about the topic.
If you suspect you have tooth decay, schedule an appointment at our practice. You can reach one of our team members by calling 847-234-0517.
What Cultures Seem Immune?
Many tribal peoples seemed to have remained immune to tooth decay for thousands of years. Apparently they didn’t even brush their teeth, but just rinsed with water. Research states that both the Mayans and the Arctic peoples never brushed their teeth or used toothpaste, and about 90 percent of both cultures were immune to tooth decay. The Yucatan diet consisted mostly of beans, corn, and a scattering of fruits and vegetables. The Arctic diet consisted of raw or fermented seafood, seal meat, fat, and liver. Before the Gold Rush, Native Americans that lived near Sacramento California experienced few cavities while eating a diet based on animal meats and fats.
In Iceland, the Norsemen and Irish survived on a seafood diet, with some meats, a few vegetables, puddings made from the blood of lambs, raw milk cheeses, shellfish, seaweed, and no grains, and they had no cavities. Once these cultures began eating a Western diet of processed foods, cookies, candy, other sugary foods and beverages, and white flour they began suffering from tooth loss, decay, infections, and degenerative diseases. According to the U.S. Public Health Service, 98 out of every 100 Americans suffer from some form of dental disease. Statistics from the American Dental Association (ADA) indicate that by the time the average American reaches the age of 20, they already have 14 decayed, filled, or missing teeth.
So, can you be immune to cavities or is your dental health based on your diet? We’ll explore this, and many other factors, in the section below.
Four Common Causes of Cavities
Perhaps you’ve had several cavities filled over the course of your lifetime, yet your spouse, friend, or family member always receives a good report at the dentist. Why is this? There are several factors to consider.
We don’t often think about our spit, but it serves several important purposes. In addition to aiding proper digestion, saliva keeps the mouth moist. It also counteracts the acid produced by plaque and tartar. Some individuals have saliva that is more basic. In fact, the more basic the saliva, the more effective it is for tooth remineralization. As a result, these patients have a naturally reduced risk for cavity formation.
Cavities form due to excessive acid in the oral environment. Virtually everyone has oral bacteria – but it’s the number of harmful bacteria that really influences the likelihood of tooth decay. Those with a higher concentration of bacteria tend to develop cavities more readily.
Sugars and starches feed off of dental plaque and tartar deposits. If these irritants are not routinely removed from the teeth surfaces, bacteria will multiply, leading to further issues. It’s best to consume these foods in moderation and practice healthy hygiene habits on a daily basis.
As is the case with many medical and dental issues, family history plays a major role in the development of tooth decay. This could be because you are genetically prone to weaker teeth or thinner enamel. This is why many diligent patients still develop cavities, despite proper brushing and flossing.
Tips for Cavity Prevention
Whether you’re prone to cavities or not, it’s important to give yourself the best chance for optimal, long-term oral health. Here are a few tips and tricks for preventing cavities and tooth decay:
- Rinse your mouth out with water after every meal. This will wash away sugars and starches, keeping bacteria at bay until you can brush your teeth.
- Brush twice a day with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste. Be sure you brush for at least two minutes each time.
- Floss between the teeth at least once every day. While traditional floss can work well for many patients, some may require floss threaders, interproximal brushes, or other tools, especially when cleaning around bridges, implants, or other restorations. Ask your dentist or hygienist for recommendations.
- Attend regular dental checkups and cleanings. This helps keep harmful microbes and bacteria at bay, and prevents serious oral health issues from developing.
- Ask your dentist about topical fluoride treatments. Fluoride actively remineralizes the enamel, making the teeth strong and resilient against cavities.
- Consider dental sealants. Easy to apply, dental sealants are like raincoats for your teeth. They protect deep grooves in the chewing surfaces from trapping food, debris, and bacteria. As a result, the chance for cavities is reduced.
- Talk to your dentist about cavity prevention. Sometimes certain medical conditions can dry out your mouth, making cavities more likely. Your dentist can recommend customized treatments, including special mouth rinses or antibiotics, to help you reduce the risk for tooth decay.
What If I Already Have Cavities?
If you’ve already developed tooth decay, Dr. Fondriest can perform restorative treatments to improve your oral health. Depending on the severity of your condition, he may recommend fillings, inlays, onlays, crowns, or other procedures. In any case, it’s best to schedule a visit as soon as possible. Unchecked dental issues can progressively worsen over time, resulting in the need for more invasive, expensive treatments.
Contact Us Today
Equipped to meet all of your dental needs, Dr. James Fondriest has received specialized training at the Pankey Institute and the Spear Institute. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, we combine innovative technology with decades of experience in cavity prevention. We are proud to serve the metropolitan Chicago area, including the North Shore and Northwest suburbs. To schedule a consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.