Tooth decay—also referred to as cavities or dental caries—develops when the bacteria in your mouth produces acids that break down the foods you eat. If these acids remain on your teeth, they’ll first attack your tooth enamel and eventually invade your pulp, which carries blood vessels and nerves. That’s why cavities are sometimes so painful.
But there are ways to prevent tooth decay. Following a few simple steps can help keep your teeth and gums healthy and significantly reduce your chances of getting cavities.
Here are ten best practices to prevent tooth decay.
Practice Good Oral Hygiene At Home
- Brush Your Teeth With Fluoride Toothpaste: In addition to brushing your teeth in the morning and before bed, you should also practice brushing every time you eat a snack or meal that includes sugary or starchy foods and beverages. The longer these food particles remain on your teeth, the better chance they have to create the sticky plaque that combines with the acids that can cause decay.
- Floss Your Teeth Twice A Day: If you’re flossing your teeth after nighttime brushing, that’s great. But if you eat foods that can get caught between your teeth, you should take a few minutes to floss afterward. Floss is more effective than a toothbrush at getting between teeth and around dental restorations like bridges, crowns, and implants.
- Chew Gum That Contains Xylitol: You may be happy to learn that it’s okay to chew gum. Dentists recommend chewing gum that contains a naturally occurring sugar alcohol called xylitol. Your mouth has bacteria that feed off sugar, but it can’t use xylitol.3 You can starve oral bacteria by feeding it xylitol—a novel way to fight off tooth decay.
Eat, Drink and Rinse
- Choose Your Foods Wisely: Don’t feel like you have to cut all of the foods you enjoy out of your diet. Just keep in mind that carbohydrate-laden food and items that can get stuck between your teeth can be problematic if you don’t brush and floss soon after eating them. On the other hand, fresh fruits and vegetables can help prevent decay in teeth by increasing saliva flow. And beverages like unsweetened coffee or tea can clear food particles from your teeth.
- Drink Tap Water: It’s become quite common to reach for filtered or bottled water these days. However, fluoride in tap water is safe to drink and reduces cavities in adults and children by 25%.1 Fluoride works by making your teeth more resistant to the acids formed by plaque bacteria and sugars, and it also helps to disrupt acid production.2 It’s okay to continue drinking bottled or filtered water if you prefer the taste, but make sure you drink at least some tap water every day.
- Use A Fluoride Rinse: Even if you drink tap water, your dentist may determine that you need supplemental fluoride. Keep in mind that a rinse is not a substitute for brushing and flossing. While fluoride rinses can protect your teeth by reducing acid production, they cannot remove plaque.
Get Professional Dental Treatment
- Visit Your Dentist Every Six Months: During regular dental visits, the hygienist uses a specialized tool to remove tartar – the hardened substance that develops when plaque remains on your teeth. Tartar cannot be removed with regular brushing and flossing, and if it takes up permanent residence on your teeth, there’s a greater likelihood it will lead to decay. Twice-yearly checkups also allow your dentist to catch early tooth decay and treat it before it becomes more severe.
- Consider A Fluoride Treatment: Some patients may require more fluoride than tap water or a fluoride rinse can provide. In that case, dentists will apply fluoride to the teeth in-office. Fluoride treatments are put on the teeth as a varnish or gel, or applied via a custom-fitted mouth tray. Your dentist may also prescribe fluoride supplements that are available in liquid or tablet form.
- Get Dental Sealants: Sealants are plastic coatings that keep the chewing surfaces of your molars from collecting plaque and acids. Despite their longevity, sealants need to be checked frequently to make sure they remain intact.
- Ask About Antibacterial Treatments: Some patients may need extra help to reduce tooth decay and may benefit from using antibacterial treatments to reduce the number of harmful bacteria in their mouths. Ask your dentist if you may be a candidate.
Adopting Healthy Daily Habits Can Help Prevent Tooth Decay
Get into a routine that will help ward off cavities and other dental problems. However, besides practicing good oral hygiene at home, it is still critical to see your dentist every six months. At regular preventative dental visits, your hygenist will remove harmful tartar that you cannot clean at home. Additionally, only your dentist will know whether or not your daily habits are minimizing tooth decay.
Empire Dental Care is led by Dr. Tehila Cohen, a respected dentist in the Rochester area. If you’re looking for experienced, highly qualified, and compassionate dental professionals in or near Webster, contact us online or call us at 585.671.1650