How to Prevent Cavities – Part I

Prevent cavities? In teeth? Is that possible?

Absolutely. Here’s how you do it:

First of all, we need three things in order for there to even be a cavity in a human tooth.
(1) A human being with teeth.
(2) A germ; specifically, one with the ominous name Strep mutans.
(3) Sugars.

At some point long ago, this particular strep got into the mouths of humanity and now, it’s probably universal. Meaning, there’s no person alive at the present time who doesn’t have Strep mutans as one of the main bacteria in their mouths.

As we know, many bacteria are harmless, and in fact, many are actually beneficial to us.¬†A well-known example is that bacteria in our intestines play a role in synthesizing vitamin B and vitamin K as well as other important substances. But Strep mutans is not our friend. It’s one of the harmful bacteria we carry, and in one specific–and consequential–scenario.

Strep mutans resides in the plaque that forms on our teeth. It actually builds that plaque.

Strep mutans loves acidic environments, and it loves to be fed simple sugars. Glucose, sucrose, fructose–basically, anything that tastes sweet. Not starches, like potatoes or celery. Simple sugars. This is a vitally important point. Many generally healthful foods contain enough simple sugars to be harmful to our teeth, and other generally unhealthy foods can surprise us by not having much tooth-decay potential.

Here are some foods that carry a high risk of tooth decay:
-granola cereal
-french fries
-fruits, generally
-coffee and tea with sugar, milk, honey or syrups in them

Here are some foods that carry a low risk of tooth decay:
-corn chips
-coffee and tea without additives. (Very beneficial to teeth, actually, due to the presence of natural fluorides and tannins.)

Notice how I don’t discriminate between solid and liquid foods? Both can carry a cavity risk.

Here is how tooth decay happens:

(1) We eat or drink a food or liquid containing a high concentration of simple sugars.

(2) Millions–billions–of Strep mutans bacteria steal a little portion of those sugars as they sail past our teeth and gums.

(3) Strep mutans, unfortunately for us, then happens to kick out an absolutely insane quantity of concentrated lactic acid when it eats the simple sugars glucose, fructose, and lactose. (With sucrose, it builds the plaque.)

(4) Lactic acid has a pH (acidity) of 2.4. Orange juice and soda have a pH of 3.0. Your car battery has a pH of 0.8 inside. Lactic is a strong acid!

(5) All this lactic acid is able to dissolve tiny weak points in our teeth. Once that process starts, a hole forms, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Cavities in teeth never “heal.” They always relentlessly grow bigger. That’s an important thing to remember.

Here is a severe, awful, tooth-destroying cavity–


On the next page, let’s learn how to prevent these devastating damages to our teeth!

Rick Wilson, DMD