Myths about tooth cavities: Here's what you should know

Tooth decay is on the rise, experts say

A cavity happens when a tooth decays or breaks down.

While cavities are extremely common, there are a lot of misconceptions about what causes them and how best to prevent them.

Studies show virtually all Americans will experience tooth decay at some point in their lives, and the numbers are increasing.   

"We saw it increasing in adults age 21 to 64 and we saw it in adults over age 65," said Dr. Linda Niessen, dean of dental medicine Nova Southeastern University.

But not everyone faces an equal risk.

"Dental research is showing us that in fact some people are much more prone to tooth decay or dental cavities than others," said Niessen.

One common myth: Only sugar causes cavities.

The fact is anything that makes your mouth more acidic can lead to cavities. Starches like bread or pasta can stimulate bacteria on teeth and produce enamel-attacking acids.

Another myth: You'll always feel a cavity.

Some cavities don't cause any symptoms, so it's important to see your dentist for regular checkups.

Myth number three: Kids can't get cavities in their baby teeth.

The truth is any enamel can decay. Cavities in baby teeth can cause pain and infections. And potentially impact adult teeth down the road.

Myth four: Fillings last forever.

Many people believe fillings will last forever, but most only last for seven to ten years.

One more myth: You can't get a cavity on a filled tooth.

Unfortunately, fillings wear down and the tooth can still decay around the edges, or on other sides of the tooth.

The good news is the better you care for your teeth every day, the less likely you are to get cavities. There also is potential hope on the horizon for longer-lasting fillings. A team of researchers recently developed a new type of filling that uses a protective additive which could last twice as long. The compound is already used to make car bumpers and wood decks stronger.

We'll keep posted on how the research goes, but the bottom line is: There's no substitute for regular brushing, flossing, and dental checkups. 

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