Think Twice before you kiss
Why don’t sharks get cavities?
It may sound like the intro to a joke, but unfortunately – the punchline is missing because tooth decay is no laughing matter. In fact, dental cavities are the number one leading disease affecting children in North America.
In Canada alone, over $68 million is spent annually on restorative dental procedures (i.e. procedures meant to help after the damage is done). Shockingly, this is four times as much as we’re spending on preventive treatment.
With figures like that, it’s easy to see why an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And as it turns out, our fishy friends are already well-equiped.
Research shows that sharks are able to keep their smiles sharp thanks to an outer coating of one hundred per cent fluoride, wrapped around their chompers.
While many of us know that fluoride can help protect our teeth, how it helps is a little murky. To unravel the mystery you first understand how cavities are formed in the first place.
And here’s another little-known fact (brace yourself) tooth decay is a communicable disease.
That’s right – cavities are contagious. Dental Cavities are a transmittable bacterial disease.
How tooth decay spreads
Tooth decay can spread from person to person – shared utensils, food and even kisses pass along cavity-causing bacteria from mouth to mouth. Once these bacteria settle in, they help form plaque and begin to feed on (metabolize) food debris, which results in an acid by-product. This acid then enters into the pores of tooth enamel or exposed dentin (i.e. the hard, dense, bony tissue forming the bulk of a tooth beneath the enamel) and dissolves minerals in the tooth (demineralization). As this process progresses, spots first begin appear on the tooth and then the dreaded cavities start to form. If left untreated, cavities can become cavernous and even destroy your teeth.
It’s enough to make you think twice before you pucker up.
But the good news is that by enacting preventive measures, you can take a page from the shark’s book and keep your smile sharp.
Practicing good oral hygiene (brushing, flossing and regular dental cleanings, etc.) is important – but if you want an extra boost, a little fluoride can go a long way.
Why fluoride helps prevent cavities
Like our fishy friends already know – fluoride helps. Not only does it help prevent cavities from forming by making teeth more resistance to acid, it also helps to remineralize teeth that have been demineralized.
Thankfully, when it comes to cavity protection, Mother Nature did give us a little leg up. Our saliva helps to protect our teeth by washing away food debris and acids from the tooth surface, as well as helping to neutralize the acids that bacteria create. Saliva contains minerals such as calcium and phosphate, and even a little bit of fluoride.
Unfortunately, the fluoride in saliva is low and often not enough.
To help give our bodies a boost, fluoride is often added to drinking water, toothpaste, rinses and gels. When fluoride is applied directly to teeth (through toothpaste like Clinpro™ 5000 Anti Cavity Toothpaste, rinses, gels and dental varnishes, to name a few) it can be so effective, that the fluoride level in saliva increases up to 1,000 fold.