During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have tried to develop better habits, including eating healthier, exercising more, self-reflection and more. However, many patients still come to us and ask for more precautions.
I brush my teeth twice a day, so why do I still get cavities?
Although the answer to this question is different for everyone, there are some general principles about cavities that I share with my patients that can help to address this problem:
- How do cavities form?
- How can you help your teeth to re-mineralise?
- When is the best time of day to brush your teeth?
How do cavities form?
All of our teeth are made up of minerals. Whenever you eat or drink sugary or starchy foods, bacteria in the plaque start to produce acid, and this acid breaks down the enamel (or protective layer on your teeth). When the pH level of the mouth drops below the critical level and becomes more acidic, the teeth start to lose the natural minerals that are on the teeth.
After eating or drinking, it takes about 30-60 minutes for the pH of the mouth to return to normal. However, if you do not give your mouth enough time to recover after eating or drinking and you eat something else high in sugar or starch, the process starts all over again and acid continues to build up in the plaque.
For example, drinking a can of lemonade in 10 minutes is much better than drinking it in an hour because your mouth will only be exposed to this acidic drink for 10 minutes instead of repeatedly for 60 minutes. The sooner your teeth can start the rejuvenation process, the better.
How can you help your teeth to re-mineralise?
Saliva is our friend! Saliva is a great help in protecting your teeth. It acts as a natural buffer from harmful particles and helps to rinse them away. The same minerals found in our teeth are also present in saliva, so after eating, saliva helps to add calcium and phosphate back to your teeth.
But sometimes that’s not enough, and fluoride comes to the rescue. When you use a toothpaste containing fluoride or drink tap water with fluoride, these beneficial properties are incorporated into saliva and help protect your teeth. As a result, the next time your teeth recover from the sugar and acid in the juice you drink or the cookies you eat, they can use these fluoride minerals in saliva to build stronger, more caries-resistant enamel.
When is the best time to brush my teeth?
We all know that it is important to brush your teeth twice a day. But when exactly should we brush our teeth?
While you sleep, plaque-causing bacteria multiply in your mouth. Brushing your teeth in the morning can be beneficial as it removes this plaque and bacteria. Brushing your teeth in the morning also helps because it gets fluoride into your mouth before you eat your first meal of the day. You can help cleanse your mouth of bacteria that have built up overnight, and this helps reduce the number of particles that turn acidic from breakfast!
If you’re one of those people who like to brush your teeth after meals, make sure you wait at least 30 minutes before brushing. If you brush your teeth right after you finish eating, you may be removing those beneficial minerals in your saliva. If you need a rinse after eating, drinking water or chewing sugar-free gum can help increase the flow of saliva so it can do its job and keep your teeth healthy.
In addition, making sure you brush your teeth before going to bed at night can limit any prolonged exposure to acid during sleep. In general, it is important to brush your teeth twice a day to help remove harmful bacteria and particles from your mouth. However, you can improve your routine by brushing your teeth first when you wake up and one last time before you go to bed.
If you have questions about your oral health routine – especially during this stressful and unprecedented time – book an appointment with us and our team can help!