Busting myths. Confirming facts. Highlighting stats.
Stats source: DentaVox, 20 Questions: Cavities | Base: 288 respondents, 01-26/08/2019
Cavities… Who hasn’t dealt with them? One of the most common dental problems tends to affect both children and adults in case of improper oral hygiene, eating habits and numerous other factors. But can we prevent cavities? And if so – how? Which food groups are harmful and which are helpful for fighting against tooth decay? We explored people’s awareness* of twenty popular notions about cavities. Let us walk you through the up-to-date results and bust some myths:
- Can I prevent cavities?
- Are sugar-free drinks harmless for my teeth?
- Are cavities contagious?
- Can acidic foods lead to cavities?
… and many more! Fasten your seat belts and let’s go!
#1: If my teeth don’t hurt, they’re fine: MYTH
An alarming share of respondents (54.1%) believe that lack of pain means lack of dental problems. The trend is less pronounced for women as 35.8% of them agree with this statement.
In fact, by the time a tooth hurts, it’s gone way too far. There is a high chance that the nerve has already been affected as well. That’s why regular check-ups are of the essence. Don’t forget to visit them twice a year – your dentist can identify cavities in a very early stage and save you cost and pain.
#2: If I have a cavity, I will see it: MYTH
Well, 43.1% of respondents actually think so.
The truth: Sometimes you will know it, but at that point, it has usually spread to larger proportions than it would have if it had been found at a routine dental screening. With timely checkups, your dentist can find a cavity before it’s clearly visible and/or causes pain.
#3: If my teeth are sensitive to hot and cold, I have a cavity: SO–SO
The majority of respondents (53.1%) agree with this statement.
While a cavity can cause some sensitivity, it might not be the main reason your teeth hurt. Tooth sensitivity might be caused by various factors such as receding gums, thinning of your tooth enamel, or even a sinus infection. Your dentist is the best person to determine the cause.
#4: You can prevent cavities: FACT
To this statement, 93.4% of respondents nodded in agreement. Voilà! Prevention above everything, we’d say to this.
As most other dental problem that might occur through one’s lifetime, cavities are also preventable. Brushing teeth regularly, flossing, going to dentist check-ups, quitting smoking, cutting back on sugary and acidic foods and drinks are among the best preventive measures you can implement into your routine. The earlier, the better.
#5: Brushing and flossing are sufficient to fight decay: MYTH
According to 59.4% of all participants in our survey, it’s enough to brush and floss your teeth in order to fight tooth decay.
In fact, brushing and flossing alone do not kill the bacteria that are the real cause of decay. Dental caries is a very complex biofilm infection and currently there are 23 strains of bacteria in biofilms that produce cavity-causing acids.
#6: Fluoride is the answer to stopping decay: SO–SO
Here we are, looking into one of the most controversial topics lately: Is fluoride a friend or a foe to our oral and general health? 43.4% of our respondents claim that fluoride might be the answer to fight cavities.
The fact: While some studies say fluoride can help manage decay by making teeth more resistant to the action of bacterial and acids in food, it is not the sole answer.
#7: Sugar causes cavities: SO–SO
The wisdom of the crowd is clear: 84.7% of survey participants agree with this statement. But what would dental professionals say? The actual answer is not so straightforward. Yes, consuming sugary foods and drinks can lead to cavities, but sugar itself is not so guilty.
The sugars/ carbs in foods like bread, beans, fruits, etc. act with bacteria in your mouth to form acids that can eat away at healthy minerals in your teeth. How does it happen? If you don’t brush, floss, and rinse regularly, plaque forms on your teeth. As you eat more things with carbs, the plaque turns to acid. Tiny holes or pits are formed and the cavity-causing bacteria can easily get inside. At this point of time, all the brushing, flossing, and rinsing can’t help anymore.
#8: Sugar-free drinks don’t cause cavities: MYTH
Despite everything explained above, it comes as no surprise that 40.3% of respondents claim this statement is true.
The misconception that sugar-free soda or coke will not damage teeth has been very popular for decades. Despite containing less or no sugar, sugar-free drinks are often filled with phosphoric, citric acid and tartaric acid. And that’s exactly the problem. While most people know that drinking sugary drinks can lead to tooth decay, fewer are aware that dental erosion that occurs when teeth are exposed to acid is actually the main cause of cavities.
Image based on ADA patient education brochure
Tooth Erosion: The Harmful Effects of Acid – W301*
#9: Pasta and bread can cause cavities: FACT
A large share of survey participants seem to be uninformed about the authenticity of this statement, as 37.5% prefer to neither agree, nor disagree. The majority, however, still confirm it.
And that’s, in fact, the truth. Bread, pasta, and pizza dough are all made with flour (in most cases a plain white flour which is low in fiber and virtually void of nutrition) that has simple carbs quickly turned into: 1) sugar, and then 2) acid. Moreover, the above-mentioned starchy foods can stick to your teeth, which is very harmful if you want to avoid bacteria in your mouth.
#10: Dairy products aren’t important for my teeth: MYTH
The majority of DentaVox respondents (54.2%) disagree with this statement and claim the importance of cheese, milk, and yogurt consumption for healthy teeth.
In fact, the calcium in cheese, and the calcium and phosphates in milk and other dairy products, help replace minerals your teeth might have lost due to other foods and also help rebuild tooth enamel.
#11: Untreated cavities lead to a root canal treatment: FACT
Almost 80% of all survey participants are aware of the risks from untreated tooth decay.
A timely treatment can indeed save costs and pain. Once your tooth is invaded by the cavity-causing bacteria, the decay will get into the nerve of the tooth if not treated and eventually, will cause the nerve to die. Then you’ll be left with the choice to save or lose a tooth. The choice between a root canal treatment and extraction is not very appealing, so be sure you let your dentist find issues in an earlier state.
#12: Cavities are contagious: FACT
Most of the respondents (43.2%) disagree with this statement.
Studies, however, show that babies are not born with the bacteria that cause cavities but are infected most often by their parents or caregivers (often referred to as “vertical transmission”). This happens when a baby is kissed, milk or other foods are tested for temperature, and pacifiers are “cleaned” in the parents’ mouth.
#13: I get cavities because I have a soft or weak enamel: MYTH
Our survey statistics show that 44.7% of respondents are convinced that their soft or weak enamel is the reason for having cavities.
As we had to state multiple times already: The acid produced by bacteria is no joke. It is scientifically proven that when the pH in the mouth drops below 5.5 demineralization of enamel takes place. So if you are prone to cavities, that’s not because your enamel is by default softer than someone else’s. You just have risk factors that are keeping your mouth too acidic.
#14: Low pH level can cause cavities: FACT
If you take any fact from this article, let it be this one: Low pH level** is the main reason for having cavities. Said simply, if you eat more acidic foods and don’t brush, floss, rinse regularly, you are prone to cavities.
Most of our DentaVox survey participants seem to be unaware of this fact, as 47.4% neither agree, nor disagree with this fact. More people (42.9%), however, confirm they are familiar with the importance of pH level for good oral health.
#15: Acidic foods can’t cause cavities: MYTH
Whereas more people – 38.7% – seem aware of the fact that acidic foods actually cause cavities, 36% of respondents still claim the opposite.
We know, we know… We are repeating ourselves. But it’s interesting to see such controversial results that confirm once again the need for more knowledge on the topic cavity prevention. Grains, citruses, tomatoes, carbonated drinks, coffee, alcohol, fish, processed foods, etc. are all acidic foods and are linked to the formation of tooth decay. Moreover, don’t forget that sugary foods also “get along” with the cavity-causing bacteria and lead to the same process.
#16: Teeth gaps cause cavities: SO–SO
In our respondents’ opinion (47.4%), this statement is true. Well, we can’t easily stamp it as a myth or fact. Bigger gaps between teeth are usually easier to keep clean and thus, as long as they are free of bacteria, wide spaces must be less prone to decay.
Pay attention to small gaps, though, as food may get stuck there and lead to cavities if not properly cleaned out.
#17: Cracked and chipped teeth lead to cavities: FACT
The vast majority (70.9%) categorically agrees.
And the fact is that cracks and chips create a home for bacteria where your toothbrush won’t reach – the perfect conditions for tooth cavities. So don’t forget to use mouthwash in order to clean such hidden spots.
#18: Children’s milk teeth can’t get cavities: MYTH
This popular misconception is busted by most of the survey participants, as 37.7% claim it’s not true.
We can’t help but agree. Any enamel, especially in young children, is prone to decay. To protect their teeth, it’s important to limit sugary drinks and snacks and help them develop a healthy oral hygiene routine since a very young age. Professionals advise that brushing should be started by parents immediately after the first teeth appear.
#19: Children get more cavities than adults: MYTH
More respondents – 45.7% – say that kids are more prone to tooth decay than adults. Bad childhood memories or not only?
Kimberly A. Harms, DDS, an American Dental Association spokeswoman, shares that “Thanks to fluoride in tap water, we’ve actually cut decay in school-aged children by half in the last 20 years”. She states, though, that cavities in adults are on the rise because of medicines that dry out the mouth and reduce saliva which protects your teeth.
#20: Chewing an aspirin tablet will relieve a toothache: MYTH
38.4% of our survey participants have apparently tested this self-treatment method, or at least have been convinced in its authenticity by external sources.
In fact, aspirin is an acidic substance, and placing it directly in contact with your gums can burn the tissues and cause an abscess. A better chance to relieve the pain with this pill you’ll have by swallowing it. However, think twice before testing any home remedies and consult with a dental professional in order to spare yourself future problems.
Which of those myths and facts were you aware of?
* Stats source: DentaVox, 20 Questions: Cavities | Base: 288 respondents, 01-26/08/2019
** The pH level is a scale used to specify how acidic or alkaline a water-based solution is. Normal level: 7.30 to 7.45.