Cavities: Why People Get Them & Treatment Options Available

A female dentist looking in a patient’s mouth.

People will, and often do, get cavities as adults. In fact, cavities, as you get older, are not uncommon. There are many more reasons why you get cavities as an adult than reasons why you get cavities as a kid. Understanding what causes your cavities helps Dr. Dawn Stultz at The Family Dental Center in Coralville, IA develops a treatment plan that works for you.

You may be surprised to discover some of the reasons why you get cavities as an adult. We have included some of the most common causes below, and treatment option routes you can take to achieve a healthier smile.

What Causes Cavities and How Can Orthodontic Services Help?

Eating Too Much Sugar

A stack of colorful macarons.

Remember when you were a kid and you were mad that your parents wouldn’t let you eat as many sweets as you wanted? Like a lot of kids, you probably vowed to eat whatever you wanted as an adult. That “vow” can come back to haunt you in the form of cavities. Proper oral hygiene and avoidance of sweets address this problem, but you may be prone to cavities even when you only eat limited amounts of sugary treats.


In this case, your dentist might recommend fluoride applications and/or an orthodontic mouth rinse. The medicated rinse helps build up the enamel and reinforces your teeth against any sweet drink or food you may consume. It’s the rinse commonly prescribed to patients with braces, but it works on regular teeth too.

Grinding Your Teeth

A very common but often undetected cause of cavities is grinding your teeth at night in your sleep. Known as bruxism, there, unfortunately, is no way to stop yourself from doing this destructive habit since it occurs while you are fast asleep. When you grind your teeth at night, you are wearing down the protective enamel, creating fissures and fractures in your teeth, and creating the perfect crevices for cavities to form.


While you may not be able to stop yourself from grinding your teeth at night, there are two treatments dentists may recommend. One treatment involves creating a nighttime mouthguard that you insert before going to bed. You will have to use it faithfully every night. Replacements are common as bruxism will wear out the mouthguard over time. However, the mouthguard does an excellent job of protecting your teeth against breakage, loss of enamel, and cavities.


The second option is to crown all the teeth that are obviously affected by bruxism. Your dentist can see which teeth are receiving the brunt of the nighttime grinding and which teeth are likely to chip and break as a result. Crowning these teeth with porcelain crowns will prevent them from breaking, extend the life of the teeth, and prevent cavities in the sides and crowns of the affected teeth. (You will still need to brush and floss to prevent cavities below the crown and near the gums.)


While you might have once had perfectly straight baby teeth, your adult teeth might not fair as well when they grow in. You may end up with a lot of crowding, overlapping, and areas where cavities can concentrate and flourish. Overlapping teeth have more areas for cavities to develop because the cavities might start on the back or side of one tooth and spread to the other overlapping teeth.


For overcrowding, most dentists recommend braces. Braces can help move your teeth around to the right places and create room in your mouth for these overlapping teeth. Teeth that don’t overlap don’t develop as many cavities and are much easier to floss and brush too. When you have braces, you are also expected to brush and floss more often to avoid food stuck in your braces.


If your teeth overlap and you encounter a lot of cavities, as a result, consider getting braces as an adult. It is somewhat awkward, but just think about how much nicer, straighter, and healthier your teeth will be for it.

Choosing the Right Treatment for You

Let’s say you decide that you want to resolve your bruxism issue. The first step is to take a mold of your teeth as they are. The mold is usually done in the office. Then your dentist will make an insertable mouthguard from the mold that will fit your mouth perfectly. A fitting may be necessary to tweak some things, but then the mold goes into a denture cup and goes home with you.


If you opt for braces to correct misaligned teeth with cavity-inducing issues, you will have to have spacers and spreaders placed in your mouth first. Once enough room is created for the teeth to shift around, wire brackets and wires are applied. Adjustments are made every few months to a year until your teeth are successfully moved into place. After that, you will have to wear a retainer and continue with proper oral hygiene to maintain the spacing and prevent cavities.


Finally, if you opt for both braces and a mouthguard to treat multiple issues, you may end up with braces first so that a mold for the mouthguard can be taken from your teeth with braces on.

Achieve a Healthier Smile at The Family Dental Center

If you are ready to experience life with fewer cavities, book an appointment with Dr. Stultz at The Family Dental Center today. Dr. Stultz can help you achieve a long-lasting, healthier smile for life.

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