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Are Soft Teeth and Cavities, Heredity or Hygiene?

We hear many people say “I have soft, weak teeth just like my mom (or dad or insert any other relative). That’s why I get so many cavities!”  Let me set the story straight. For starters, that’s a myth. Cavities are not hereditary.

Bottom line is that cavities are caused by bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria cannot be treated with antibiotics as other bacterial diseases. They have to be treated with preventative measures both at home and professionally.

“Soft” or “bad” teeth are not the culprit. However, the bacteria that causes cavities can be transmitted between family members. This can put you at higher risk for developing cavities. Studies show that the oral bacteria that causes tooth decay is transmitted first in childhood, typically in the first year of  life.

The oral bacteria is typically transferred by the mother, father and siblings, but can also be transferred by other close family members and friends through saliva and contact with the oral cavity. Who doesn’t love cooking and kissing little ones? That first year of life is when babies are so adorable everyone wants to snuggle and kiss them all the time.

To keep your child’s teeth healthy, you must keep your own mouth and teeth clean and healthy. This will also prevent transmission of bacteria. Brushing, flossing, mouth rinses and regular professional care can help keep both your own and your child’s oral cavity healthy!

So what can you do if you are prone to cavities?

The bacteria responsible for dental decay are only active in the right environment. This means that the bacteria eat what you eat and can only survive in an environment that is hospitable for them.

Oral bacteria that causes dental decay like to consume carbohydrates, in particular simple carbohydrates that are broken down in the mouth. For example a regular diet of crackers, bread, chips, cookies, bagels, dried fruit, juices, milk, pop and candy is the perfect food for cavity causing bacteria.

First, these foods are broken down in the mouth by an enzyme in the mouth called salivary amylase that breaks down simple carbohydrates. When these carbohydrates are allowed to sit in the mouth and on the teeth, the oral bacteria start to break down and digest them.  Acid levels rise in the mouth and if not cleaned shortly after eating the teeth become compromised and breakdown begins.

Regular meals and snacks are important! However, grazing throughout the day can put you at higher risk for cavities due to the constant exposure to bacteria.

Hygiene Conquers Heredity

If someone is infected with the oral bacteria which causes tooth decay as a child, the mouth is a perfect breeding ground for those bacteria to live, produce harmful acids and erode the teeth.

Establishing good oral hygiene habits early on will help prevent the bacteria from wreaking havoc. Brushing regularly throughout the day, as well as rinsing with water when unable to brush, helps to wash the oral cavity of food and neutralize the effects of increased acidity in the oral cavity from bacteria. Early and regular visits to the dentist are essential.

Remember, soft teeth and cavities are caused by bacteria! Brush, floss, and have your teeth professionally cleaned regularly to keep them healthy.