Preventing Dental Caries in Adults

Preventing Dental Caries in Adults

Many people believe that dental caries (cavities) only occur in childhood. Unfortunately, adults don’t outgrow the risk of developing this common dental condition. In fact, 27% of American adults currently have untreated tooth decay.

While an individual’s oral hygiene typically improves in adulthood which can help reduce the risk of dental caries, there are often other habits at play that can increase the development of tooth decay. Some dental experts believe that there is even an increasing trend in adult dental caries. Let’s look at some of the reasons why this may be happening.


Cavities are closely linked to diet. Although most adults aren’t loading up on candy and soda, they are often getting hidden sources of sugar in unexpected places. Some of the sneaky foods and beverages that can promote dental decay include:

  • Fruit juice
  • Vitamin and sports drinks
  • Dried fruit
  • Milk
  • Cereal
  • Energy bars
  • Coffee drinks like lattes and cappuccinos


Rigorous tooth-brushing with a nylon bristle brush can also be a cavity culprit. This common habit can lead to receding gums. As roots become exposed, they become vulnerable to decay and the development of dental caries. Gentle brushing around the gum line twice a day can go a long way towards keeping teeth (and gums) healthy.

Old Fillings

Many adults have fillings that are decades old. These often weaken and even fracture which can produce gaps between the filing material and the tooth. Tooth decay can develop in these gaps causing new, larger cavities to form. One of the many reasons why routine dental visits are important is to check old filings for wear and tear. Those that are beginning to weaken should be replaced. In some cases, it may warrant a crown or additional endodontic treatment, such as a root canal.

A Proactive Approach to Preventing Adult Dental Caries

Along with regular brushing, there are other strategies for minimizing the risk of developing dental caries.

  • Use a fluoride toothpaste and rinse
  • Floss at least once a day
  • Eat a well-balanced diet low in sugar and heavy starches
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Minimize coffee, soda and alcohol

Of course, it’s also important to have twice yearly dental checkups. Professional cleaning and polishing can remove stubborn plaque and tartar that leads to cavities. And, with a thorough visual exam and x-rays, a dental professional can detect early signs of tooth decay before they become big problems.