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15 Myths and Facts About Cavities

You've probably been told since you were a kid to do everything you can to avoid cavities. But if you're like most of us, you may still be a bit hazy on the facts about tooth decay. Learn how to separate truth from fiction and you'll be on your way to a trouble-free smile.

1. Myth: Sugar Is the Only Thing That Causes Cavities

"The truth is, acid produced by bacteria in your mouth is the cause of cavities," says Kimberly A. Harms, DDS, an American Dental Association spokeswoman.

Any carb you eat can start that process. That includes sugar as well as rice, potatoes, bread, fruits, and vegetables.

2. Fact: Acid Causes Tooth Decay

Acidic foods can break down your teeth's outer shell (called the enamel), weaken the tooth, and make teeth more likely to decay.

"The bacteria responsible for tooth decay produces acids," says Misty Horn-Blake, DDS, a dentist in Johnson City, TN. "Eating acidic foods often throughout the day (including juice and soda) can enhance that process."

So go light on the acid and practice good oral care.

3. Myth: Kids Get Way More Cavities Than Adults

Thanks to fluoride in tap water, "we've actually cut decay in school-aged children by half in the last 20 years," Harms says.

On the flip side, she says cavities in senior citizens are on the rise because of medicines that dry out the mouth. They reduce saliva, which protects your teeth.

4. Myth: Aspirin Next to a Tooth Will Help a Toothache

You have to swallow the aspirin to ease your pain. Since aspirin is acidic, it could burn your gum tissue and cause a painful ulcer if you place it next to a tooth.

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