Ok, so you have had a mouth full of cavities since you were a kid, yet your friend, husband/wife, brother/sister, has never had a cavity in his/her life! WHY!?! Multiple factors go into forming cavities.
Cavity Forming Factors
A carious lesion (cavity) is formed by acid eating away at the tooth structure. This acid is produced by oral bacteria, usually Streptococcus Mutans or Lactobacillus Casei. These bacteria are in most, if not all mouths. However their quantity differs by person. The amount of these bacteria in the mouth is thought to be transmitted from mother to child. However this link is a bit shaky. One way or another though, certain individuals have more of these bacteria in their mouths, and are thus more susceptible to cavities.
Saliva serves multiple purposes. Digestion of food, keeping the mouth moist, buffering the saliva, and others. The ion concentration and buffering capacity of saliva are essential in the formation, or lack thereof, of cavities. The basic properties of saliva can counteract the acid produced by the bacteria, which prevents cavities. Some people’s saliva is more basic than others, and therefore more effective in preventing cavities. In addition, the more basic the saliva, the more it is able to remineralize and keep tooth enamel strong.
As with most bodily problems, genetics has an influence on oral health, including cavities. Certain people are more susceptible, whether it be by weaker tooth structure, oral and tooth anatomy, or from other factors. One way or another, genetics plays a role in the number of cavities a person has or will have.
One last factor, and probably the most discussed, but possibly the least important, is the amount of sugar in the diet. Sugar, particularly sucrose, is the food oral bacteria needs to create the acid that causes cavities. This is a commonly accepted idea, and most all dentists will tell you not to consume lots of sugar if you don’t want cavities; especially stick sugars (ie caramels). However some studies have contradicted this idea and showed that sugar is certainly not the only factor. In the groundbreaking Vipeholm study from Sweden in 1948, they found that:
- Although all the patients consumed the very popular caramels, which were served between meals in 4 portions of 5 or 6 caramels each, 20% of them had not developed one single caries lesion after one year.
- About 20-30% of the patients did not develop any new caries lesions at all, although they had a frequent intake of between-meal sweets for long periods.
This is far from a detailed, or complete list of reasons why some people get more cavities than others. But hopefully it will help you when understanding the caries process, and how they can somewhat be prevented. Stay tuned for my next post, how to reduce your chances at getting cavities!