Cavities, also known as dental caries, are one of the most common oral health problems. People often worry that cavities can spread from person to person, like a cold or the flu. But is this actually true? Or is it just a myth?
This post will take a look at the evidence and explain what really happens when you get a cavity. Stay tuned!
What are cavities?
Cavities are small holes that form in your teeth. They are caused by tooth decay, which happens when plaque and bacteria build up on your teeth and start to eat away at the enamel (the hard outer layer of your teeth).
Cavities are most common in children and adults who do not have good oral hygiene. This includes children and adults who do not brush and floss their teeth regularly or have a diet high in sugar.
How do cavities form?
Cavities form when plaque and bacteria build up on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky film of food, saliva, and bacteria. When you eat sugary or starchy foods, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that eat away at your tooth enamel.
Over time, this can create a small hole in your tooth, known as a cavity. If the cavity is not treated, it will continue to grow larger and can eventually damage the tooth’s pulp (the inner layer of your tooth that contains blood vessels and nerves).
Can cavities become contagious?
There is no definitive answer to this question. Some experts say cavities can spread from person to person, while others claim they are not contagious.
The main reason cavities might be contagious is that the bacteria that cause cavities (Streptococcus mutans) can be passed from person to person. When you have a cavity, the bacteria in your mouth can spread to other people. This is especially true if you share utensils or kiss someone.
However, it is important to remember that not everyone who comes in contact with these bacteria will get a cavity. This is because everyone has different levels of resistance to tooth decay. So, even if you have a cavity, it does not mean that you will definitely give it to someone else.
Plus, cavities can take months or even years to form. So, even if you catch a cold or the flu from someone, it is unlikely that you also got a cavity from them.
How to prevent cavities
While cavities might not be as contagious as the flu, the bacteria that causes them can still spread to your loved ones. Therefore, the best way to prevent this from happening is to prevent the cavities from forming altogether.
Here are five ways you can achieve that:
- Brush and floss regularly: Brushing and flossing your teeth might have become a routine. However, they are still your best chance of preventing cavities. When brushing, spend at least 30 seconds in each quadrant of your mouth to give a total of 2 minutes.
It is also vital that you use fluoride toothpaste to brush your teeth. Fluoride is a material that helps to strengthen your tooth enamel and make it more resistant to cavities.
- See your dentist regularly: Dental checkups should happen every six months. At these appointments, your dentist will clean your teeth and look for any early signs of cavities. If they find a cavity, they can treat it before it worsens.
- Avoid sugary and starchy foods: As we mentioned earlier, cavities are caused by acids that eat away at your tooth enamel. These acids are produced when bacteria break down sugary and starchy foods. So, if you want to prevent cavities, it is important to limit your intake of these types of foods.
- Use dental sealants: Dental sealants are thin, clear coatings that are applied to the chewing surfaces of your back teeth. They are designed to fill in the grooves and pits of your teeth so that plaque and bacteria cannot build up in these areas. Sealants can be especially helpful for children who are more prone to cavities.
- Drink plenty of water: Drinking water is good for your overall health, but it is also good for your teeth. Water helps rinse plaque and bacteria from your teeth, which can help prevent cavities. It also helps to prevent dry mouth, which can lead to an increased risk of cavities.
However, it is important to drink fluoridated water, which is water that contains fluoride. This type of water can help to strengthen your tooth enamel and prevent cavities.
Cavities are often considered a childhood problem, but adults can get them too. In fact, about one in five adults has untreated cavities. If you want to avoid cavities, it is important to brush and floss regularly, drink fluoridated water, and avoid sugary and starchy foods.
Nevertheless, if you have a cavity or think you might have one, talk to your dentist. They can help to diagnose and treat the problem immediately. Keep in mind that the sooner you treat it, the less damage it will do to your teeth.