5 Factors That Quietly Increase Your Risk of Tooth Decay

Protect your teeth from tooth decay

The Quiet Contributors to Tooth Decay 

Did you know tooth decay is a prevalent oral health issue in the United States? According to the CDC, 90% of adults age 20 and up have had at least one cavity, and 1 in every 4 adults between the ages of 20 and 64 currently has at least one cavity. Surprisingly, tooth decay’s contributing factors are not always obvious, so it’s crucial to recognize the silent culprits that increase your risk. 

Uncovering the threats to your oral health is necessary for maintaining a radiant smile, and you can trust Dr. Desai, the only female American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry-accredited dentist in Newport Beach, to address them. Dr. Desai stands at the forefront of general and cosmetic dentistry, establishing herself as a distinguished leader in the field. Her remarkable accomplishments include being honored as one of the nation’s Top 40 Dentists Under 40 in 2020 and earning the esteemed recognition of one of the Top Dentists in Orange County by her peers for three consecutive years in 2020, 2021, and 2022.

We will now explore 5 often-overlooked factors of tooth decay and how your Newport Beach dentist plays a vital role in helping you preserve your dental health. 

1. Mouth pH Levels

The pH level of your mouth plays a significant role in the development of tooth decay. When the pH drops below 5.5, it is considered acidic, and the risk of decay increases. This drop occurs when you consume acidic foods and drinks, causing a shift from the neutral pH level of around 7.0. Prolonged exposure to low pH levels creates an environment that promotes the growth of cavity-causing bacteria. Diet directly affects how frequently your oral pH dips to this critical level.

Implementing nutritional counseling is instrumental in maintaining a healthy oral pH level. By incorporating more alkaline foods like vegetables into your diet, reducing bread and sugar consumption, and limiting acidic beverages like alcohol and coffee, you can promote alkalinity and support optimal oral health.

2. Hampered Saliva 

Hampered saliva, (i.e., a lack of adequate saliva flow), significantly increases the risk of tooth decay. Saliva plays a vital role in preserving the health of both hard and soft oral tissues by effectively washing away food particles and debris from the gums and teeth. This cleansing action helps prevent the accumulation of harmful plaque that can eat away at the enamel.

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, saliva’s antimicrobial properties help inhibit cavities, and the minerals it contains promote tooth remineralization, underscoring the importance of optimal saliva flow. However, chronic mouth breathing, certain health conditions, and dehydration can all impede saliva production, compromising the natural defense mechanism of saliva against tooth decay.

3. Certain Medications

Medications can contribute to tooth decay by creating an acidic oral environment, often through the side effect of dry mouth. A dry mouth compromises the protective benefits of normal salivary flow. Saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining oral health, as it contains enzymes that break down starches, returns minerals to the enamel, and helps regulate the mouth’s pH level. Reduced saliva production means a more acidic oral environment, heightening the risk of tooth decay. 

Hundreds of medications are known to cause dry mouth, including a broad range of anticholinergic medications used for various medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, and nausea. In recent FDA warnings, dental problems associated with dissolvable forms of buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid addiction, have been highlighted as well. However, although buprenorphine can cause dry mouth that may contribute to tooth decay, the benefits of the medication outweigh this risk. 

Be sure to look at the side effects of any medications you take and inform your dentist in Newport Beach if dry mouth is one of them.

4. Genetics

Genetics can sometimes play a role in cavity development as well. Conditions such as amelogenesis imperfecta, as outlined by MedlinePlus, are genetic disorders that affect enamel formation. This condition can weaken enamel, making the teeth more susceptible to decay and damage. Understanding genetic factors can help dental professionals tailor treatment approaches to provide the necessary care and support for individuals with inherited dental vulnerabilities.

5. Poor Plaque Control

Controlling plaque buildup by practicing proper dental hygiene at home is crucial for reducing your risk of dental decay. Plaque, a sticky film that coats the teeth, contains harmful bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. According to the American Dental Association, the bacteria in plaque release acids when exposed to sugars from meals or snacks. These acids attack the tooth enamel, breaking it down and forming a cavity. Any plaque left behind after brushing and interdental cleaning can harden into tartar, making it even more challenging to keep the teeth clean. Regular professional cleanings every six months from your dental hygienist are critical in controlling plaque and tartar buildup.

For individuals who experience dental anxiety, Luminous Smiles offers sedation dentistry to facilitate comfortable, pain-free treatment.

Dr. Desai and the Luminous Smiles team can help you reduce your risk of tooth decay.

Tooth decay is influenced by various silent contributors, including oral pH levels, hampered saliva flow, certain medications, genetics, and poor plaque control. Understanding these factors is essential for maintaining optimal oral health. Dr. Desai, a Kois-trained dentist at Luminous Smiles, takes a comprehensive approach to oral care, considering whole-body health to reduce the risk of tooth decay and associated illnesses. 

Dr. Desai addresses the underlying causes of tooth decay, using her expertise and extensive training to offer patients advanced treatment tailored to their needs. Luminous Smiles also provides nutritional counseling as part of their comprehensive approach, empowering patients to make informed choices for maintaining a healthy mouth. Together, Dr. Desai and her team at Luminous Smiles strive to help patients achieve a healthy, beautiful smile while promoting overall well-being. Request your appointment today.