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    15 Myths and Facts About Cavities

    By Tracy Brown
    WebMD Feature

    You've probably been told since you were a kid to do everything you can to avoid cavities. But if you're like most of us, you may still be a bit hazy on the facts about tooth decay. Learn how to separate truth from fiction and you'll be on your way to a trouble-free smile.

    1. Myth: Sugar Is the Only Thing That Causes Cavities

    "The truth is, acid produced by bacteria in your mouth is the cause of cavities," says Kimberly A. Harms, DDS, an American Dental Association spokeswoman.

    Any carb you eat can start that process. That includes sugar as well as rice, potatoes, bread, fruits, and vegetables.

    2. Fact: Acid Causes Tooth Decay

    Acidic foods can break down your teeth's outer shell (called the enamel), weaken the tooth, and make teeth more likely to decay.

    "The bacteria responsible for tooth decay produces acids," says Misty Horn-Blake, DDS, a dentist in Johnson City, TN. "Eating acidic foods often throughout the day (including juice and soda) can enhance that process."

    So go light on the acid and practice good oral care.

    3. Myth: Kids Get Way More Cavities Than Adults

    Thanks to fluoride in tap water, "we've actually cut decay in school-aged children by half in the last 20 years," Harms says.

    On the flip side, she says cavities in senior citizens are on the rise because of medicines that dry out the mouth. They reduce saliva, which protects your teeth.

    4. Myth: Aspirin Next to a Tooth Will Help a Toothache

    You have to swallow the aspirin to ease your pain. Since aspirin is acidic, it could burn your gum tissue and cause a painful ulcer if you place it next to a tooth.

    5. Myth: All Fillings Will Need to Replaced

    "Fillings do have a life expectancy," Harms says, but it depends on things like tooth wear and oral hygiene.

    If you keep up with your dental routine, you're less likely to have problems, and your fillings may last longer.

    6. Myth: You'll Know When You Have a Cavity

    "Sometimes you will know it, but at that point, it has usually spread to larger proportions than it would have if it had been found at a routine dental screening," Horn-Blake says.

    With timely checkups, your dentist can find a cavity before it causes pain.

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    How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

    Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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    Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

    Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

    SOURCES:

    American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

    This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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