Category Archives: Preventive Dentistry

A sure-fire way to cut down your number of cavities

So I’ve always had problems with my teeth. My mom had calcium deficiency when she was pregnant with me, and I was pretty much born with it. My teeth always get cavities easily (even though I keep good oral hygiene). The doctor told me I seem to have mineral deficiency and my teeth will be prone to damage. I used to take mineral supplements a while back but I don’t anymore… i didn’t notice any change. All this is quite frustrating, since I need to get my cavities filled and my mother can’t really afford it with all the money problems we’ve had lately… Seeing how both of my parents have had problems with their teeth all of their lives, I’m scared that by 30, I’ll have to get dentures… I’m only 18.
– Anna-Maria from Romania

I can’t examine you, so I can’t tell what role this calcium deficiency has in the number of cavities you get. But I can offer some helpful advice.

You can always reduce the number of cavities you get by reducing your frequency of eating.

Few people understand, and dentists often don’t explain well this principle – that your saliva has defenses against decay. There are bacteria in your mouth that break down food particles and secrete acids that cause decay. But, at the same time, there are enzymes, antibodies, and minerals in your saliva that work to combat this attack and also work to repair the damage they cause. When you get cavities, it is because your saliva doesn’t have enough time to repair the damage between attacks.

So the trick is to let your saliva have more time to repair before the next attack. And you do this by limiting your frequency of eating. So if you snack between meals, just quit doing that, and you will dramatically reduce the number of cavities you get.

People think they can stop tooth decay by just brushing better. Now toothbrushing helps prevent decay, but there are too many spots on your teeth that toothbrushing can’t reach. For example, right where the teeth touch each other, brushing doesn’t reach that. Also, there are often deep pits on the chewing surfaces of your teeth that the brush can’t reach. And even where the toothbrush CAN reach, you have to brush that within about ten minutes after every time you get food in your mouth to prevent any damage, which is impractical. So the best way to limit the number of cavities is to stick to three meals a day, and then brush your two times a day and floss once a day.

I hope this is helpful.

This blog sponsored by Cleveland dentist Dr. Brad Hylan
Links: read more about teeth cleaning and oral hygiene.

A yellow build-up on my teeth

Dr. Hylan,

My lower¬†teeth have a yellow build-up on them, and when I try to remove it, it seems as though I don’t have any tooth left. What is that and what can I do?

Wanda in Georgia

It sounds like it just must be quite a while since you’ve had your teeth cleaned.

The yellow build-up is called calculus or tartar. What happens is that your saliva has minerals in it, and those minerals very gradually build up on your teeth as a substance called calculus. When that build-up is visible, it is called tartar.

The build-up occurs so gradually that people often get used to it, and when it is cleaned off it feels strange, like there are large gaps between their teeth or part of each tooth is gone. But it needs to be all cleaned off.

Calculus is very damaging to the health of the gums. It leads to gum disease, and over a period of years it causes the gums to pull away from the teeth. The teeth become loose and will eventually fall out. When the teeth are loose, it is usually too late to save them. The best practice is to have your teeth cleaned every six months. If you are particularly susceptible to gum disease, it may even be recommended to have them cleaned more often.

For more information, read our dental hygiene page where we explain how we check for gum disease each time you have your teeth cleaned in our office.