Why Are You Getting Frequent Cavities? 6 Possible Reasons and What To Do
Why do I have frequent cavities?
It’s estimated that approximately 2% of adults between the ages of 20 to 64 years have no teeth. And according to the American College of Prosthodontists, an estimated 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth. With these statistics, it also stands to reason the problem worsens as we age. Consider that 30% of adults between 65-74 years old have no natural teeth. Yet what causes these statistics to be accurate? The answer lies in tooth decay and the prevalence of frequent cavities.
If you’re experiencing frequent cavities, you’re not alone. 90% of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 years have had decay in their teeth. But even though tooth decay is not contagious, it remains the most common noncommunicable disease worldwide. Yet why do some people only get one or two cavities in their lifetime, and why do others get so many?
Here are some of the most common reasons you might be subject to frequent cavities.
1. Acid Reflux
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. This condition can weaken the enamel on your teeth, which sets your teeth up for developing cavities more easily. When acid reflux occurs at night, it can bathe your back teeth in acid, making these teeth more susceptible to cavities.
The acid from your stomach can erode the protective layer of enamel on your teeth, leaving them vulnerable to decay. The acid can also cause dry mouth, reducing saliva production. To prevent frequent cavities caused by acid reflux, it is essential to seek treatment for your GERD and practice good oral hygiene habits, such as brushing and flossing regularly and using fluoride toothpaste.
2. Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is a side effect of GERD, and other conditions can also cause it. Common causes include:
- Medications to treat depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure
- Autoimmune diseases
- Nerve damage
Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, can contribute to frequent cavities because saliva helps keep bacteria in balance. Without adequate saliva, the risk of developing cavities increases. Saliva not only helps to neutralize harmful acids produced by oral bacteria, but it also contains minerals such as calcium and phosphate that help to rebuild and strengthen tooth enamel. When you have insufficient saliva production, these protective mechanisms are compromised, and the likelihood of tooth decay and cavities increases.
Mouth breathing can also cause dry mouth because it bypasses the natural humidification and filtration that occurs when you breathe through your nose. This can lead to a reduction in saliva production, increasing the risk of cavities. If you are experiencing dry mouth and wake up feeling unrested, consider getting evaluated for snoring and sleep apnea, as these conditions can cause mouth breathing during sleep and exacerbate dry mouth symptoms.
3. Clenching and Grinding (Bruxism)
Bruxism, or teeth grinding and clenching, can contribute to frequent cavities, especially if your enamel is weakened by acid reflux. This constant pressure and friction can wear down your tooth enamel at an accelerated rate, leading to thinner enamel and an increased risk of developing cavities.
Your enamel acts as a protective layer on your teeth, and when it becomes too thin, the underlying dentin is exposed, making your teeth more susceptible to decay. Therefore, it is essential to address bruxism to prevent further damage to your teeth. If you are already experiencing weakened enamel, taking steps to protect your teeth from cavities is even more critical.
4. Diet and Nutrition
You’ve probably heard the phrase suggesting that we are what we eat, and unfortunately, there is some truth behind that. The American Dental Association suggests that consuming sugars is associated with an increased risk of developing cavities. Further, acidic food and beverages are also associated with an increased risk of erosive tooth wear.
For this reason, it is best to stick to a diet of tooth-friendly foods that are also good for your body. Good choices include dairy products, such as cheese, milk, and yogurt, leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and lettuce, crunchy fruits and vegetables, such as apples, pear, carrots, and celery, and lean proteins. Foods to avoid include:
- Sour candies
- Soft drinks
- Ice (chewing on ice, specifically)
- Citrus fruits including oranges, grapefruits, and lemons
- Potato chips
- Dried fruits
5. Brushing and Flossing Habits
Poor brushing and flossing habits can contribute to frequent cavities by allowing plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, to accumulate on and between teeth, which produces acids that erode tooth enamel and leads to decay. If you’re not brushing your teeth twice daily for two minutes at a time or flossing at least once per day, you’re not taking adequate care of your teeth and gums. Be sure to build an excellent tooth-brushing regimen into your daily routine. Brush your teeth twice daily for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste. If you struggle to brush your teeth correctly, check out this video from the American Dental Association.
You should also floss once per day, especially after you are done eating and before you go to bed. Flossing is almost more important than brushing because it helps remove stubborn food particles lodged between the teeth and gums.
As much as we wish it were not the case, sometimes genetics can increase our risk of developing frequent cavities. Some people are genetically predisposed to soft enamel, making their teeth more susceptible to decay. If you have a family history of dental problems, let your Buffalo Dental Group know so we can partner with you to take extra measures to protect your teeth. This may include more frequent dental check-ups, fluoride treatments, or prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste.
By proactively working with your dentist to identify and address genetic predispositions to dental problems, you can help keep your teeth healthy and lessen your risk for frequent cavities.
A few small changes can make a world of difference in reducing your frequency of cavities.
Sometimes, it’s those small things that can add up. Brushing your teeth twice a day instead of just once, or adding flossing to your daily oral hygiene routine, can help keep harmful bacteria from sticking to your teeth and hardening into plaque. Making a small change to your diet can help your oral health and will likely improve your overall health too. But if you make one of these changes, ensure it is accompanied by visits to the dentist every six months for a professional dental cleaning and oral evaluation.
If you live in or near Buffalo and are overdue for your dental appointment or have concerns about your frequent cavities, now is the time to request an appointment. We look forward to helping you lessen your cavity risk and improving your dental hygiene.