“Doc, I don’t eat sweets or chocolates and I brush my teeth after every meal, but still I form new cavities quite often, I am sick and tired of this.” Are you able to relate to this, if yes, continue to read on.
I hear this quite often from my patients and the frustration in their tone can be quite disturbing sometimes. I have always wanted to help them as much as I could and that’s the reason I chose to write on this topic this time. Lets get to the basics.
Why do cavities form on teeth?
I shall try to keep it simple without going into too much medical detail on the formation of dental caries (cavities). Cavities are formed by the continuous action of bacteria that are typically present in our mouths. It’s common sense that if we get rid of these bacteria, we can get rid of cavities. While it’s impossible to completely get rid of them, it is quite possible to weaken these bacteria.
We can do this by cutting out the fuel that these bacteria feed off. If we reduce their source of energy, they will in turn become weaker.
What is their source of energy?
It’s the leftover food that you have consumed throughout the day. Please note, that anything other than water is considered food in this case. Remnants of your tea, coffee, biscuits, chips, croissants, fruit juices etc. Sugary food remnants are highly conducive to the formation of cavities, but it does not mean that non-sugary food does not cause tooth decay. Any food remnant in the mouth can cause tooth decay.
So how do you cut the fuel supply to the cavity-forming bacteria? Make sure there is no food remnant in the mouth. ‘Anything you consume other than water, should be followed by heavy rinsing with water’. I call this water-brushing. When you have removed the food remnants with water, you have significantly reduced the supply of fuel to harmful bacteria, you have weakened them and taken control.
I have had this habit of running my tongue along the surfaces of teeth after I eat something solid or sticky and I find that so much of food chunks are sometimes stuck onto the teeth even after water-brushing, which I slowly and gradually remove with my tongue itself. Try it out and let me know if it helps.
How good is your brushing? Is there any way to find out if your brushing is right, and if your brush is actually reaching all the surfaces of your teeth? Are you aware that every tooth has five surfaces to be cleaned? Dentists have always told you that you should brush your teeth well, I am not going to tell you the same stuff again but we all know it is true. There is a fantastic way to evaluate your brushing – disclosing solution/tablets. This is how it works – first, you brush your teeth the normal way, then you take disclosing tablet, chew it well, swish it around your mouth and spit it out.
The areas that are not yet cleaned take up the red stain from the tablet (a word of caution here – your tongue and cheeks could get stained, so do this when you are at home, after work). Now that you can actually visualize the areas that your toothbrush did not reach (even though you were thinking that you were doing a good brushing) all that you have to do is take your brush once again and brush those red-stained areas until the stain is gone.
When you do this every day for about two weeks, you will find that almost the same areas of your teeth are getting stained every day. Work on improving your brushing strokes to cover those areas, once you are confident of your progress, taper the use of disclosing solution to once in three days, then once a week, then once a month and so on.
A few of us are actually very prone to developing cavities in between the teeth, the area that’s almost inaccessible to a toothbrush. For those of you who fall into this category, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that even if you correct your brushing with disclosing solution as explained above, you might still continue to form cavities in between the teeth. But the good news is, you have Water Pik water flosser for your rescue. Yes, it will thrust a powerful jet of water out of its tip and when positioned in between the teeth (both from the cheek side and tongue side) it can be almost as effective as manual floss.
Remember this is not an alternative to brushing (I can hear some of you shouting with happiness “Ahhh, I can use only the Water Pik and stop brushing altogether”), it’s a valuable adjunct to brushing.
I hope it’s clear and you are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, I hope you have the confidence that you have the knowledge to avoid the formation of cavities.
To sum it up:
Eat > Water-brush> use disclosing tablets > fine-tune your brushing strokes > use Water Pik water flosser > lead a cavity-free life.
To book a consultation or ask a question, please get in touch using the details below.
Dr Diwakar Raju,
Shams Al Waha medical centre, Al Ain