Dental caries (decay) occur when acids, sugars, and bacteria work together to cause demineralization and destruction of the hard tissues of the teeth – enamel, dentin and cementum – leading to carious lesions, or cavities.
5 Biggest Risk Factors for Cavities:
- Active, growing cavities that are identified during an exam or on cavity-detection x-rays within the past 12 months
- High acidic or sugar diet.
- Dry Mouth (Xerostomia). Approximately 25% of people suffer from xerostomia. The condition needs to be severe for a patient to acknowledge the problem, but a dry mouth allows sugars, acids, and bacteria to eat away at a tooth more effectively.
- Exposed Roots. The root surface is weak and prone to cavities when exposed.
- Enamel or Restorative Defects. This can occur when the teeth are not as calcified as they should be when they erupt as an adolescent or if dental work does not fit properly.
Additional SEVERE Risk Factors for Cavities:
- Head and Neck Radiation
- Traditional Orthodontics (Braces)
Home Care Instructions for patients with elevated risk for cavities:
- Brushing: Minimum of twice daily for 2 minutes at a time using an Electric Toothbrush - we recommend the Sonicare Toothbrush
- Toothpaste: ClinPro 5000. Prescription toothpaste that needs to be purchased at a Dental office. Contains ingredients that help strengthen enamel. ($20)
- Mouth rinses: Antiseptic Rinse (Listerine) twice daily AND Fluoride Rinse (ACT) before bed.
- Flossing: 1x/day with proper technique
- Professional Dental Cleaning: We will recommend seeing you for regular periodontal visits every 3-4 months to help reduce the bacteria that can cause the cavities.
- Laser Bacterial Removal: By utilizing the focused light energy of this laser we can drastically reduce the bacteria levels atraumatically while simultaneously promoting an appropriate environment for healing. ($30)
- Fluoride Varnish: Instead of the traditional rinse we use for healthy patients, we recommend a Varnish or paste that is applied to the surfaces of your teeth following you cleaning appointments. This varnish has 100x the effectiveness of the rinse. ($20)
- X-Rays: We recommend taking cavity detection x-rays 1x/year to identify cavities before they become symptomatic.
- Prescription Mouthrinse: In extreme cases, including radiation or orthodontic treatment, we will prescribe Peridex which is a stronger antiseptic rinse to use in place of the Listerine. This rinse will be used for 1 week following all periodontal visits ($20)
Additional Home Care Recommendations to help prevent cavities:
- Limit intake of fermentable carbohydrates – those sugar, starchy, acidic foods we all know and love!
- For our younger patients (teens and pre-teens primarily), sealants to protect the chewing surfaces of the molars can be a great preventive measure.
- Antibacterial products – Using an assortment of Xylitol products a few times daily – including mints, lozenges, sprays and rinses - can help hamper bacterial growth and neutralize the pH of the mouth. See our Dry Mouth handout for recommendations on these products.
- Products to aid in remineralization – MI paste or prevident gel can be used topically or in conjunction with custom trays to help reverse the very early stages of demineralization.