Myths and facts about cavities, part 2

The internet is full of information and misinformation about oral health.  It is often difficult to know if the information you’re reading online is fact or fiction.  WebMD has an entire section devoted to healthy teeth and included in this section is an article entitled, “15 Myths and Facts About Cavities.”  While this article isn’t specifically written about children’s teeth, many of the myths and facts discussed are common topics of discussion during appointments at our office.  See if you can identify fact versus fiction in the original WebMD article and read on for discussion of how these topics apply to children’s teeth.  You can find part 1 of this discussion here.  Check back for discussion of the rest of the statements soon.

6. If You Have a Cavity, You’ll Know It – WebMD says: Myth

This one is definitely a myth.  If you see or feel something on your tooth, there is a good chance it has been hiding there for a while, undetected.  By the time a tooth actually hurts, the decay has likely progressed past the superficial stage and now involves some of the inner portions of the tooth.  Advanced decay can reach the nerve which usually results in severe pain and more complicated procedures in order to resolve the problem.  Children are notoriously unreliable when it comes to reporting of pain in teeth.  Some children complain about severe tooth pain when there is nothing more than growing pains or a loose tooth.  Other children never complain of tooth pain even in the presence of large cavities or advanced decay involving the nerve.  For this reason, regular checkups with your child’s dentist are critical.  Only the dentist can identify cavities before your child can see or feel them and only the dentist can determine if tooth pain is the result of a cavity or just growing pains.

7. Once a Tooth Is Treated, the Decaying Stops – WebMD says: Fact

This is a fact for permanent teeth but can be a myth for primary or baby teeth.  In a permanent tooth, the decay is always completely removed and replaced with a filling.  If you are able to keep the filling material clean, particularly around the area where it meets the healthy tooth around it, you are unlikely to get decay in that spot again.  However, it is not unusual for a temporary filling to be placed in a baby tooth.  In some situations, this type of filling can be placed with decay still present in the tooth.  The goal is usually to keep food from getting stuck in or around the tooth while preserving the tooth long enough for it to fall out on its own. 

8. Cavities Are More Likely Between Teeth – WebMD says: Fact

This is true for adults and especially true for children.  As soon as two teeth are in contact with each other, the toothbrush can no longer reach the area of contact.  This can happen in some children as early as one or two years of age.  Without regular flossing of these areas, they are never adequately cleaned and cavities are much more likely to form.  Flossing in young children can be challenging, even with the aid of floss picks and other oral hygiene aids.  However, flossing those contact areas between teeth is the single best way to prevent the most common type of cavities in children.  That’s why your child’s dentist reminds your child of the importance of flossing so often.  If your child learns of the importance of flossing at a young age, they will be a flosser for life!

9. Gaps in Teeth Encourage Cavities – WebMD says: Fact

While it is a fact that certain types of gaps between teeth can be challenging to clean and therefore more likely to result in the development of cavities, this statement is a myth for most people.  Spaces or gaps between teeth allow food to pass through without getting stuck and are easier to clean with a toothbrush.  In fact, in areas where there are gaps between teeth, dental floss usually isn’t necessary.  For most children, gaps between some or all of the teeth are a normal part of their growing mouths.  As discussed in statement #8 above, the areas where teeth are in contact with each other and without gaps are the places where cavities are most likely to develop.

10. Chips and Cracks in Teeth Lead to Decay – WebMD says: Fact

Bacteria that cause cavities love to hide in tight spaces that are inaccessible to a toothbrush.  Chipped or cracked areas of teeth are perfect examples of these spaces and if bacteria are allowed to proliferate in these areas, cavities are often the result.  The daily use of an anti-cavity rinse containing fluoride can help decrease the risk of decay as it can reach these sometimes microscopic hiding spaces.  If you are considering using a daily rinse with your child, make sure they have mastered the ability to spit out the rinse.  If you think they are swallowing more than they are spitting out, consider having them rinse with water only and practice spitting it out.

If you have questions about cavities and your child, call our office any time to speak to a member of our team.


About the Author:

Since 1972, Salem Pediatric Dental & Orthodontic Associates has provided comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence including those with special health care needs. We proudly serve the communities of Salem, Lynn, Peabody, Danvers, Marblehead, Swampscott, Beverly, and many more.
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