When it comes to cavities, is bad luck or bad behavior to blame? Oral health experts agree—it’s a little of both. Cavities are nearly 100% preventable. Hitting the genetic jackpot will only get you so far if you neglect your pearly whites.
Born this way?
Cavities can be a genetic gamble. Your risk of tooth decay is affected by genetic factors, and researchers have found these common cavity-causing components:
Genes are the primary producer for enamel structure. The stronger your enamel surface, the better it’s able to absorb key nutrients, like fluoride and calcium.
• Immune System
Your body contains thousands of species of microorganisms, which dictate your body’s immune response. If your immune system is a superstar, you’re likely skilled at fighting all sicknesses—including gum disease.
Saliva can be used to identify polymorphisms — gene variants that take many forms. And your specific spit can help (or hurt) the amount of cavity-causing bacteria found in your mouth, according to a 2010 study.
People with crowded teeth may experience difficulty flossing, making it easier for plaque to stay put. And teeth with more grooves give bacteria a surplus of hiding spots.
Are bad behaviors to blame?
Smoking and sugar are obvious oral health no-no’s, but what about less obvious behaviors that can contribute to cavities:
• Constant Snacking
It takes just 20 seconds to convert sugar to cavity-causing acid in your mouth. Sipping and snacking continually reintroduces sugar to your smile. In terms of eating, time trumps amount. For example, sucking on a lollipop all day is more damaging than eating 15 lollipops right after lunch (though neither are a good idea).
• Appointment Skippers/Procrastinators
Going just 2 years without a dental appointment significantly increases your risk for tooth decay. No matter how dedicated your regimen, brushing and flossing can’t do it all. Even if your mouth feels fine, a dental issue can still exist, and you may not have any symptoms until the problem becomes serious.
Though there’s no crystal ball for cavities, it’s still important to do your part to practice preventive care. Daily brushing and flossing will increase your healthy smile odds.