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Tooth Decay — How To Assess Your Risk

Don’t Wait For Cavities — Stop Them Before They Start!

By Dr. V. Kim Kutsch and Dr. Douglas A. Young

This article is endorsed by the
American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.


Risk Factors

Risk Factors are those associated with an increased chance of disease or infection. They may be linked to a disease, but do not necessarily cause it.

They include:

  • Visible plaque that you can see, means there’s a lot of it. And if your mouth is acidic, your plaque (biofilm) is especially prone to contain decay producing (acidogenic) bacteria.
  • Inadequate saliva flow leads to dry mouth or if the ability of your saliva to neutralize acid is diminished, protection against decay is seriously compromised.
  • Many medications can cause mouth dryness and in addition, diseases that result in lack of saliva result in diminished ability to neutralize acid. Both significantly increase the risk of decay.
  • Frequent snacking, eating sugars, refined carbohydrates, and acidic foods actually promote acid producing “BAD” bacteria.
  • Appliances: Retainers, orthodontic appliances, and bite or night guards all tend to restrict saliva flow over the teeth causing stagnation and promotion of bacterial plaque (biofilm).
  • Deep “pits and fissures,” the shapes of teeth vary from person to person; your genetic make-up controls how deep the tiny grooves (fissures) and pits are on your tooth surfaces. The deeper they are, the more likely they are to harbor bacteria.
  • Acidic beverages or foods not only increase the growth of acid loving (aciduric) bacteria, but they can also cause erosion of enamel.
  • Other conditions, like bulimia and anorexia (psychological states in which individuals induce vomiting), and Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) can create highly acidic conditions in the mouth causing severe erosive damage to teeth.