August 22, 2022
More Chocolate, No Cavities by Dr. Roger W. Lucas, DDS – Part 2
In Part 1 of Dr. Lucas book he discussed the myths about kids teeth and cavities. He also teaches his readers about the importance of baby teeth and why they need to stay healthy. In Part 2, he discusses the “Real Cause of Cavities.” A common belief behind the cause of cavities is that if we eat too much sugar and never brush our teeth we will get cavities. Dr. Lucas debunks this idea of what causes cavities and how they form over time.
The formation of cavities is a process called Carries, which is a bacterial disease. When we eat carbohydrates (or sugars), the natural bacteria in our mouths break down the carbohydrates into lactic acid. And if you are familiar with acid, you know that it can be corrosive to almost any surface. Our teeth are the strongest surface we have in our body, but if they are exposed to acid for extended periods of time, you will see corrosion, just like you would if you were to pour acid on a piece of metal, you will then end up with a hole in your tooth or teeth.
The bacteria in our mouth is natural, in fact it is not the only place in our body that we have natural bacteria. As the bacteria accumulates on our teeth it forms plaque, which that is a term that is heard a lot from your dentist or dental hygienist. When food, or carbohydrates to be more specific, enters our mouth that bacteria immediately breaks down the carbohydrates into lactic acid, and this causes demineralization. “Once the bacterial waste gets busy dissolving enamel, saliva comes to the rescue. But it takes about twenty minutes for saliva to rinse the mouth enough to reduce the acidity to stop the cavity-forming process”(page, 17).
The enamel of our teeth is very strong, but at a pH level of 5.5 it will begin to demineralize. This is why lactic acid is so hard our teeth; it has ha pH level of 2.4! This type of acid is only formed in our mouths when we consume carbohydrates, the bacteria does not turn fats or protein into lactic acid. The acid will stay on our teeth for twenty minutes, that is why it is important for us to rinse our mouths or drink water with our meals.
Lets talk about saliva for a minute. Saliva is a good thing, it helps to remineralize our teeth to keep them from breaking down, it uses calcium and phosphate to help keep our teeth strong. If there is too much acid in our mouth, the saliva cannot keep up with the demineralization of our teeth. Water can help remove the acid from our mouth; however, it cannot remove sticky starches from out teeth, which if sit there long enough acid will form an demineralization will occur. Dr. Lucas recommends eating less processed foods and more foods high in protein and fats. This can be hard for parents because it’s so easy to had our kids a granola bar, or a handful of crackers, these get stuck in their teeth. Not all carbs are bad though; if your kids wont eat a snack that is high in fat and protein, choose a snack that wont stick to their teeth, like a slice of bread, or an apple.
A lot of people think that cavities are cause because of genetics, while this can be a factor it is not the only reason you or your child will get cavities. But the main reason genetics cause cavities is the spacing between the teeth. The sooner the teeth touch when your child’s baby teeth are erupting the higher the chance they have at getting cavities. This is because sticky foods like crackers and breakfast cereal get stuck between those teeth and is a lot harder to remove, resulting in more acid formation within the mouth. If your childs teeth are like this you will have to help them a lot more to prevent cavities. Teeth that tough at an early age should be flossed to remove the bacteria and food that is trapped between the teeth.
Cavity formation is all about how long the acid sits on our teeth; the acid will only last for 20 minutes. This doesn’t sound like a very long time, but when it something that is corrosive on your teeth, it makes a big difference. He says “the longer a food or drink is on the teeth, the more likely it is that a cavity will form. He gave a couple examples, the first: if you sip on soda all day long, it will cause more damage to your teeth than drinking one can in ten minutes. The second: eating crackers over several hours is worse than eating crackers in ten minutes. Why is it worse to eat or drink something for a long period of time? Like Dr. Lucas said, the longer the teeth are exposed to the food or drink the more likely cavities will form on your teeth.
Dr. Lucas is strongly convinced that cavities are 100% preventable, and after reading his book I could not agree with him more, and I am not a dentist. However, the arguments he makes and the thing he discusses makes sense to me. He also believes that crackers are the leading cause of cavities in both children and adults. Crackers are sticky, starchy, carbohydrates that stick to your teeth when you eat them, and the more you eat of them the higher the chance is that you will get cavities. This is also why he believes cavities are preventable. He says that it would be better to give your child a piece of dark chocolate everyday as a treat instead of crackers, dark chocolate wont be on their teeth long enough to cause cavities if the drink water after they eat it, unless your kid has teeth that touch early on, then flossing will need to happen. This is where the title of his books comes from, chocolate is less likely to cause cavities than eating crackers on a regular basis. He suggest that if you want to prevent your child from getting cavities, and even yourself, change the way you snack. Eat foods that won’t stick to your teeth, its fine every once in a while.
For more information about his book you can visit his website Thedentistdad.com to learn more, or you can check out his book. You can even ask your dentist what he thinks about these theories he has on the cause of cavities.
Lucas, DDS, Roger W. More Chocolate, No Cavities: How Diet Can Keep Your Kid Cavity-Free. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.