You’ve probably heard from a very young age that candy causes cavities. But is this true, or it is just a myth? The answer may be a little more complicated than you might think.
What Are Cavities?
Also called tooth decay, cavities are tiny holes in the hard surface of your teeth. If they’re not treated, they can grow larger and their damage can move further into your tooth and affect additional layers. Cavities can then cause severe pain, an infection, or even tooth loss if they’re allowed to grow.
Does Candy Really Cause Cavities?
Candy doesn’t directly cause cavities. Instead, it can indirectly cause cavities to develop.
The process starts when you eat a sugary food like candy or a starchy one like bread. If you don’t clean these materials off your teeth, the bacteria in your mouth begin to feed on the sugars and starches. They form plaque, a sticky film that coats your teeth. If plaque is allowed to harden, it forms tartar, which is more difficult to remove and provides a shield that makes it easier for bacteria to grow.
The damage continues as plaque acids erode your tooth’s hard enamel, causing tiny holes. If left to grow unchecked, these cavities can reach the softer dentin layer of your tooth and cause sensitivity. Inner tooth material called pulp can also be affected by the bacteria and acid and begin to become swollen, irritated and painful.
What Foods Make You More Likely to Have Cavities?
Eating a great deal of the following foods can make you more likely to develop cavities:
- Sweets: They can remain on the teeth, causing a breeding ground for cavity-causing bacteria
- Citrus fruits and juices: The acid in them can cause your tooth enamel to erode over time and make your teeth more vulnerable to cavities
- Sticky foods: Foods like dried fruit stay on your teeth longer than other types
- Crunchy snacks: Foods like potato chips are loaded with starch, which often gets trapped in your teeth
- Alcohol: Alcohol makes your mouth dry, and since saliva helps wash plaque away, a dry mouth can be more prone to getting cavities
- Soda: Especially if you sip soda for hours, you’re exposing your teeth to a prolonged sugar/acid bath
What Foods Help Fight Cavities?
The following foods may decrease your chances of developing cavities:
- Fruits & vegetables with lots of fiber: These stimulate saliva flow and start to neutralize acids that attack your teeth; crisp foods like apples and carrots are good choices
- Dairy products: They contain calcium, phosphates, and vitamin D, which can lessen your risk of tooth decay
- Sugarless gum – Sugarless gum can increase your saliva flow and rinse harmful acid off your teeth. Types that contain xylitol have also been found to help prevent decay by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria.
If you’d like to find out more about what causes cavities, make an appointment today with Central Avenue Dental of Manhattan and Valley Stream, NY. We provide everything from regular dental exams and cleanings to cosmetic treatments and advanced dentistry.