Most people know that a cavity is a hole in your mouth. Most people also know that brushing your teeth and flossing are supposed to help. But if you don’t understand the origin of a cavity– what conditions led to its development and how to reverse cavities that have started–then you don’t really have the full picture.
A cavity is caused by a threefold process that takes place over time. This process can be difficult to prevent totally, because of the foods we normally eat. So, having a cavity isn’t something to be ashamed of… but it is something to take care of!
A cavity is caused by the bacteria, streptococcus mutans, which hangs out in your mouth all the time. Any time a sugar enters your mouth (and that could be any type of food that breaks down into a sugar, even fruit or grains), it gets broken down by the s. mutans bacteria. As a byproduct of the process, an acid is secreted. This is where it gets dangerous for your oral health. The acid in your mouth works to soften and dissolve the enamel on your teeth. Then the bacteria have a place to hide. Once that happens, you’ll find it is much harder to totally purge them from your mouth.
There is a common myth today about cavities that says once tooth decay begins, it’s impossible to reverse and your only recourse is the drill. That simply isn’t true.
To explain how you can reverse cavities that have already started to develop, we have to begin with a story about a very well-known dentist of the 20th century, West A. Price. While travelling around the world to discover what causes tooth decay, Dr. Price found that many indigenous peoples had perfect teeth. As soon as they were exposed to a western diet, they began to experience tooth decay and chronic illness.
Not surprisingly, several of the recommendations made by this investigative team are diet-related. We want to highlight these two very important ones:
1. Decrease intake of foods containing phytic acid
2. Remove unnecessary sugars completely from your diet
Decrease intake of foods containing phytic acid. Phytic acid leaches minerals from your body and inhibits enzyme reactions in your body. This chemical can be found in grains, nuts, seeds, and beans. It’s a problem for us today because we don’t use ancient food preparation techniques (sprouting, sourdough fermentation) which kill off the phytic acid.
About 80% of the phosphorus in grains and beans is bound to phytic acid, which makes it impossible for your body to absorb these foods. Besides blocking the availability of phosphorus, these molecules bind minerals that are necessary for oral health such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. If you’re trying to reverse the progress of a cavity, you should reduce consumption of foods high in phytic acid such as grains, beans, nuts, and soy. Talk to your dentist and doctor about your future diet plans before making any major changes, though.
Remove unnecessary sugars completely from your diet. Since we know that sugars are what the bacteria love, why give them anything to feed on? Avoid sugar like the plague if a cavity is growing. Avoid processed sugars like those in soda, candy, and baked goods, or replace them with natural sugars such as raw honey and maple syrup. Your teeth will thank you. Otherwise, eating the sugary foods only speeds up the process of decalcification and demineralization of your teeth.
Besides avoiding certain foods, you can also start new practices that can reverse the cavity development process. You can also brush your teeth with mineralizing toothpaste. Sometimes these are expensive, but there are a few varieties that won’t break the bank.
At Penn Dental Family Practice, we have ways of treating cavities and recommendations for you that are non-invasive. We don’t use the drill unless all other alternatives are exhausted. Schedule your first appointment with us by calling 215-898-7337.