Linda came into the office with a problem: She was getting cavities all of a sudden. She had been my patient for over 5 years and never had one before, yet she was coming in for several fillings. Why? So, I asked Linda to walk me through her day-to-day. What was different? Something had to have changed in either her lifestyle or her diet.
She racked her brain and couldn’t think of anything. I asked her about some of the most common causes of sudden cavities. Was she adding more sugar to her coffee? Was she sipping on Coke while staying up late correcting tests? (She’s a high school teacher ). Had she been sick recently and using cough drops? (These can be very high in sugar.)
Finally, we figured it out.
“You know what, there is one thing I’m doing differently!” she said. “I started drinking a glass of white wine every night after I brush my teeth, before going to bed, while I read a good book.”
Bingo. After she brushed her teeth. Did you know that alcoholic beverages contain sugar? We’re pleased to say that Linda decided to modify her routine and she’s back to no longer getting cavities.
So why do I get cavities?
Here are some common reasons:
Change in daily routine: If you weren’t getting cavities before and now you are, it’s highly likely that something in your life has changed that’s causing the sudden onset. Consider lifestyle factors like diet, stress, starting school or a new job, and new habits.
Stress: Stress isn’t just in your head; it has an effect on the entire body. Stress increases the immune response and inflammation throughout the body. Stress can also give you dry mouth or make you crave the wrong foods. Some of my patients are entrepreneurs, students, or new parents and the added stress brings with it increased cavities.
New exercise routine: If you’ve started jogging or working out, you might be getting dry mouth. Saliva helps neutralize the acids in our mouth, which are what cause tooth decay and cavities. If you have less saliva due to dry mouth, this could cause cavities.
More frequent sugar: When it comes to your teeth, the amount of sugar you eat doesn’t matter as much as how long the exposure is. Eating five slices of cake all at once would be better than sucking on a hard candy or a cough drop for an hour. Sipping on soda or snacking frequently can all be culprits of an increase in cavities.
A sore throat or the flu: Sucking on cough drops all day long are a common culprit of cavities that people don’t know about.
Not enough brushing and flossing: This one goes without saying. Below is the proper brushing technique.
A new dentist: Did your new dentist all of a sudden diagnose 4 cavities when your last dentist didn’t find any at your last recall exam 6 months ago? Sometimes the reason is environmental, maybe something changed in your diet. Also, not all x-Rays are equal! If your new dentist has the latest X-Ray technology he may see cavities when they are still small to medium, and therefore still fixable with a small filling. Some older generation X-Ray captors sometimes detect cavities only when they are medium to large.
Gum recession: Receding gums expose the root of the tooth. The root is the part of the tooth below the gum and it doesn’t have a protective enamel covering like the rest of your tooth, making it much more susceptible to decay and cavities.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy treatment can result in dry mouth, which makes you more prone to cavities.
Braces: If you’ve recently gotten braces, you might have noticed it’s much harder to floss and brush.
The most important message to take down: if you’re getting cavities all of a sudden, find out the root cause. Getting a filling should be step one; step two should be finding out why you’re getting cavities all of a sudden so that you don’t get more. Prevention is always the best cure.