Why Do Some People Still Get Cavities Even When They Brush Their Teeth?

A toothbrush with toothpaste sitting on a table.

A lot of times when patients come in, they are shocked when the dentist finishes poking around in their mouth and says, “Well, I hate to say this, but you have a cavity.” For the patient, they are frustrated and confused because not only do they rarely get cavities, but they brush their teeth religiously. Therefore, how is it possible to get a cavity when brushing your teeth regularly?

When the patient informs the dentist that they brush their teeth regularly, the dentist will inevitably reply, “Are you flossing regularly?” Indeed, most people neglect to floss even when they faithfully brush their teeth, but this neglect can be what is causing them to have cavities. Most adult cavities are formed in between the teeth. These are generally called interproximal cavities in dental terms. They occur when bacteria from food sits in between the teeth and if not removed with flossing, the bacteria will slowly start to eat away at the tooth and cause decay, or, a cavity. Unfortunately, once a cavity is fully formed, it is nearly impossible to simply brush and make it go away. So, even if you forgot your floss on that family vacation from two months ago, you may have a cavity when you come in for your check-up. However, flossing is an easy and effective way to prevent these interproximal cavities from forming.

Nonetheless, some people claim to brush and floss daily, yet they still get cavities. There could be a number of reasons for this. First, soda intake is a big determining factor of tooth decay. Every sip of sugary, carbonated soda is the like an acid attack on your teeth, which may break down the enamel to the point of having a cavity. Therefore, hygienists recommend that when drinking soda, drink it with a meal and/or in one sitting so that your teeth have less prolonged exposure to the soda. Also, try to brush your teeth or rinse your mouth out with water immediately following soda intake. Second, some people simple have “bad genes” that cause them to have more cavities, like higher calcium deposits in their saliva. When calcium builds up on the teeth, it can harden into what is called tartar. Once tartar is present, it cannot be removed without a professional dental cleaning, so if it stays on the teeth, it can eventually cause tooth decay. Unfortunately for those who have high calcium deposits in their saliva, there is not much to prevent cavities other than being diligent at brushing and flossing.

In conclusion, brushing alone will not guarantee that you will be cavity-free at your next dental appointment. In addition to brushing, try to floss and avoid sipping soda as much as possible to decrease the likelihood of developing a cavity.