You may have thought that cavities only occur in children who do not drink fluoridated water, and who eat sweet things all the time. While there is some truth in the fact that eating a diet high in sugars and sweets will increase the frequency of cavities, anyone can get a cavity. Cavities are more common in young children, but as we age, cavities also begin to form in middle age to later adult years.
Cavities are always caused by tooth decay, and result from plaque that remains on the tooth surface too long, allowing acid to destroy the tooth enamel.
Children commonly get cavities as they have not perfected brushing and flossing techniques yet, and often have ‘treats’ of sweet things more often than adults do. Common ways to prevent cavities in children are to limit sweets and sugared drinks and gum, as well as encouraging good oral hygiene. Adding sealants will help children from getting cavities in their back teeth.
Adults, however, are faced with a slightly different problem. Cavities that form in adulthood are more frequently seen with gum line recession and gum disease. As the gum line begins to pull away from the tooth, roots of the teeth are more exposed to plaque than in the past. A little bit of gum recession is normal as adults age, but can be prevented by practicing good brushing and flossing on a regular basis. As the gum line recedes, and roots are exposed, a softer part of the tooth is exposed. This part of the tooth is called cementum. Despite sounding like ‘cement’, cementum is actually softer than enamel and is destroyed more easily by plaque than enamel is. These cavities are sometimes called tooth root decay.
Any person of any age can get a cavity. The best way to prevent cavities is to brush and floss regularly, and to see your dentist for regular dental cleanings and check-ups. Eating a well-balanced diet and limiting sweet and sugary items will go a long way in maintaining good oral health.
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