6 cavity myths – busted!

Sleeping woman

You know the drill. You’re at your dentist’s office, your mouth open wide, and the dentist says, “You have a cavity.” It’s not what you wanted to hear.

Maybe the news came as a surprise. Maybe you thought you were taking good care of your teeth.

Cavities start small and often happen without notice, so knowing how to best prevent them may be confusing. Understanding the facts, though, may help you keep your smile healthy for years to come.

Here’s the truth behind the most common misconceptions about cavities.

MYTH: Only sugar causes cavities.

FACT: Sugar is certainly the cavity bad guy but candy, dessert, and soda aren’t the only suspects – starches like bread and pasta stimulate the bacteria on teeth to produce enamel-attacking acids as well.1

MYTH: Frequent snacking will help the mouth produce saliva and ward off cavities.

FACT: Chewing activates saliva flow in the mouth. Saliva is full of minerals like calcium and phosphate that can help protect enamel, so it would be reasonable to think that eating several times a day would help keep teeth healthy. But here’s the catch: constantly introducing starches and sugars into the mouth keeps acid production up, so more enamel is damaged.1

You don’t need to give up snacks, even those that do contain natural sugars, like fruits or whole grains. The key is to limit constant grazing so that teeth have some time to recover. And brush your teeth regularly.

MYTH: If I have a cavity, I will feel it.

FACT:It’s true that if tooth decay is advanced, you might feel general pain or experience pain when eating something sweet, hot or cold. But, when a cavity is forming, you might not have any symptoms at all.2 That’s why it’s important to get regular checkups and cleanings, even when you don’t feel any pain or sensitivity.

MYTH: A child’s baby teeth can’t get cavities because they are temporary.

FACT: Any enamel, especially in young children, is prone to decay. In kids, common reasons cavities form are due to drinking sugary beverages, being exposed to cavity causing bacteria, or not getting enough fluoride.

To protect their teeth, it’s important to limit sugary drinks and snacks and instill healthy brushing and flossing habits early on.3

MYTH: Dairy products aren’t important for your teeth

FACT:The calcium in cheese, milk, and yogurt helps replace minerals in your teeth that might have been zapped by foods like soda and sweets.4

MYTH: The mercury in dental amalgam, or silver fillings, is dangerous.

FACT: There are many different types of mercury and the mercury that we think of as a health hazard – the one that can build up in fish – is actually not the same as the material used in fillings. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration considers dental amalgam safe for adults and children ages six and above.5


1 https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/childrens-oral-health/tooth-decay-process (link opens in new window)

2 http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cavities/basics/symptoms/con-20030076 (link opens in new window)

3 http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/baby-bottle-tooth-decay (link opens in new window)

4 http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=4062 (link opens in new window)

https://www.fda.gov/medicaldevices/productsandmedicalprocedures/dentalproducts/dentalamalgam/ucm171094.htm (link opens in new window)

This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical, legal, financial, or other professional advice or used in place of consulting a licensed professional. You should consult with an applicable licensed professional to determine what is right for you.

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