Cavities or Tooth Decay are rampant in The Bahamas.
A PAHO (Pan American Health organization) study completed in 2000 examined the oral health status of school age children in the Bahamas. The survey gave us a glimpse of the seriousness of this public health crisis. It concluded that cavity prevalence between the ages 5-15 years is over 60%. Since that time, with the increase in sugar consumption year over year in much of our diets, it appears far worse today.
It appears that countries who provide water fluoridation systems have made some inroads. Due to the effective use of these programs and the increasing use of fluoride toothpaste, varnishes, fluoride drops and sealants, cavities in many countries like Europe and North America have decreased by 90%.
In the Bahamas, the fluoride level in our tap water varies from too low to too high to make a substantial difference. As a result of this, we seem to experience two extremes; rampant cavities in most areas where fluoride is non-existent and on the other hand, we see enamel fluorosis where there is too much fluoride in the water. Interestingly, most bottled drinking waters on the market today in The Bahamas are non-fluoridated.
So, what conditions attract cavities?
As babies and adolescents our saliva has a neutral pH or slightly alkaline. This is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. When the reading is below 7 it is acidic and when above it is alkaline. An acidic environment causes an erosion of your teeth. As we age it is likely that our saliva become more acidic for the following reasons:
- As we age, we are more likely to take several medications. One of the side effects of many medications is that they cause your salivary glands to not work as usual. As a result, our mouth becomes dry.
- When we age our salivary glands tend to not function as well as when we were babies. Remember seeing the large amount of saliva that drains from a baby’s mouth. That is God’s way of protecting the little darlings by self-cleaning and self-medicating their mouths.
- Dry mouth is an acidic mouth and an acidic mouth cause erosion of your enamel and more disease. Bacteria flourish in this environment.
- The sugar and carbohydrates you consume causes your pH levels to become more acidic thereby causing more cavities.
What should you do?
- Speak to your Medical Doctor about the medications you take. Institute a proper exercise and nutritional approach to boost your immune system and improve your health status.
- Reduce the sugar in your diet. Processed food is high in sugar. We tend to love candies, cakes, puddings, chocolates, etc. Sugar increases the incidence of decay.
- Be sure to brush and floss just before bedtime. During your sleeping hours the salivary rate is lower and the pH is acidic. The result is rampant cavities.
If you don’t produce enough saliva, you can buy a rinse that stimulates your glands. A simple home remedy is to use baking soda rinses. The pH is high and will neutralize acids very fast. Take a tablespoon of baking soda, mix with 8 oz of water, and just rinse with a mouthful of it and spit out. Do this 2-3 times per day. Also, you may eat more raw vegetables which reduces the acids in your mouth, help with digestion and has important nutritional benefits.
Despite the challenges that come with aging, there are home remedies that are effective. Get the facts. Visit your dentist for professional help today!
Dr. Kendal V. O. Major is Founder and CEO of Center for Specialized Dentistry which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in Nassau and Freeport. He is the first Bahamian Specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He also is a certified Fast braces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, Nassau at (242)325-5165 or [email protected]