Do you know which of these is true?

  • Eating acidic things like lemons causes cavities.
  • If you have a cavity, you’ll generally know it.
  • Once you treat a cavity, the tooth decay stops.
  • If you brush your teeth properly, you won’t get decay.

1. Sugar Is the Prime Cause of Cavities

True (sort of!). It’s actually the acid produced by the bacteria in your mouth that causes cavities. Bacteria need fuel, and the refined sugar (sucrose) found in sweets, biscuits and carbonated drinks is an excellent source of fuel for those cavity-causing bugs.

Once exposed to sugar, the bacteria become active and produce acid that then eats into your tooth. Once they do that, they now have a nice little hole to live in where your toothbrush and floss can’t reach. The bacteria continue to metabolise the sugary fuel, produce acids, and your cavity just keeps getting bigger.

2. If you brush your teeth properly, you won’t get decay

False. Good oral hygiene helps to prevent decay, but if you have a sugar-rich diet, then you still can, and probably will, get cavities in the fissures and inaccessible areas of your teeth.

Also, it’s not the amount of carbohydrates you eat that causes tooth decay, but the length of time your teeth are exposed. If you eat a lot of carbs for lunch, that’s one big exposure. But if you spend the day sipping sugary drinks, that’s continuous exposure — and much more dangerous for your teeth.

“Snack all day and get decay.’”

3. Mints freshen your breath

Depends. Most mints contain sugar which leads to tooth decay; not the best for fresh breath. If you like minty sweets or gum, make sure they’re sugar free!

4. Exposure to acidic foods like lemons causes tooth decay

True. Acidic foods such as lemons, citrus juices, or soft drinks don’t directly cause cavities, but they can cause erosion of the tooth-protecting enamel, weakening the tooth. If you lose the enamel’s protection and expose the underlying dentin, your tooth is now more prone to decay.

5. Aspirin placed next to a tooth will help a toothache

False. Swallowing aspirin is what helps reduce toothache pain. Since aspirin is acidic, placing it beside the tooth can actually burn your gum tissue, causing an ulcer. Always swallow the aspirin.

6. All fillings eventually need replacing

False. An amalgam, composite or porcelain filling needs to be replaced if it breaks down, a cavity forms around it, or if the tooth fractures. If none of those problems occur, there is no reason why you can’t keep the same filling for life.

Fillings do have an average life expectancy, but it depends on things like tooth wear and oral hygiene habits. If you brush your teeth twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste, and floss or use an interdental cleaner once a day, you’ll have less tooth decay and your fillings should last longer

7. If you have a cavity, you’ll feel it

False. This is a very common myth; patients can sometimes be surprised to hear that they have decay in their teeth. Many people think that if it doesn’t hurt, then there’s nothing wrong. Unfortunately mild tooth decay typically doesn’t cause symptoms. The pain we associate with cavities comes when tooth decay is more advanced and causes damage to the nerve.

Also, once a cavity starts, it doesn’t repair itself. A cavity will always grow once you get to a point where you can’t clean it out any longer. Once decay gets into the dentin of the tooth — below the enamel — it just continues to grow.

Allowing tooth decay to advance can lead to much more extensive procedures, like root canals and crowns. That’s why regular dental checkups are so important.

8. Sensitivity in teeth means you have decay

False. Tooth sensitivity could just mean you have hypersensitive teeth, or gum recession has exposed some root surface. There are many things, including decay, which can lead to sensitive teeth.

9. Once a tooth is treated, the decaying stops

True. You can get decay later on in other areas of the tooth, but the particular decay that was taken out is gone.

Once you get a cavity filled, and if you maintain good brushing and flossing techniques, you typically won’t get decay in that spot again.

Sometimes a filling gets old and the margins where it meets the tooth begin to break down or pull away; because you can’t reach it to clean it out, bacteria can get in there and decay can begin again.

10. Cavities are more likely between teeth

True. Anywhere bacteria can hide and you can’t easily clean is a likely place for decay. Your toothbrush will not effectively clean between the teeth, and people who do not floss daily are much more likely to get decay between the teeth. Additionally the deep grooves on the biting surface of your back teeth are a common place for tooth decay.

11. Gaps in teeth encourage cavities

True. If you have small gaps between your teeth that are not easily cleaned, or if you have areas that food tends to get caught in, these are at a much greater risk of decay.

12. Chips and cracks in teeth lead to decay

True. If cracks and chips create a hiding place for bacteria, a spot where your toothbrush can’t reach, those areas are more prone to tooth decay.

At Portobello Dental Clinic, we’re seeing more and more cracks in teeth due to night-time grinding. Worries about the economy can make some people grind their teeth more; so stress can play an important role in dental health.

13. Clenching and grinding isn’t that big a deal

False. Clenching and grinding is one of the most destructive things you can do to your teeth. With normal chewing, teeth touch for mere milliseconds, suffering very little stress. But clenching and grinding, typically done during sleep, puts tremendous pressure on your teeth for extended periods.

14. You don’t need to worry about cavities in baby teeth

False. If cavities are left untreated in baby teeth, they can develop into serious pain and abscesses. The baby teeth also help to guide the adult teeth into their correct position, so if they are lost early, this can lead to crooked or poorly positioned permanent teeth.

14.  Poor oral health only affects the mouth


  • People with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease than people without gum disease.
  • Pregnant women who have gum disease may be over three times more likely to have a baby that is premature.
  • Several studies have correlated the connection between mouth infections and strokes.
  • People who lose their back teeth and cannot chew their food properly are at higher risk of digestive problems, & poorer nutrition.
  • Loss of back teeth is also associated with high blood pressure.

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