From the time you are old enough to understand oral health, you are warned about the danger of cavities – and with good reason. These nasty little craters can make life unbearable, lead to extra trips to oral health specialists, cost you money, and even threaten your overall health if you’re not careful.
The good news is that you can do plenty to prevent cavities and avoid all the above pitfalls.
Now, you might think it’s as simple as brushing your teeth consistently – but that’s only part of the equation. In fact, there are many other things you can do to help prevent cavities, including some new developments thanks to modern oral healthcare.
With that in mind, let’s answer the question: How to prevent cavities?
First, a brief overview of what a cavity is.
What is a cavity?
A cavity is a hole the develops in your tooth because of decay. That decay is caused by a build-up of bacteria that penetrates the tooth’s surface. Your tooth cannot heal a cavity on its own and must be corrected by a dental professional. Unattended, a cavity will continue to grow and eventually produce pain, infection, and even tooth loss. That is because, left untreated, cavities can produce an infection of the affected tooth’s nerve, effectively killing the tooth.
Cavities can occur at any age and are fostered by a combination of genetics, poor oral hygiene, and diet – especially sugary, simple carbohydrate-heavy and acidic foods. These factors can, in combination (or alone) promote the growth of plaque. Over time, plaque hardens and creates a protective barrier for the bacteria that is always present in your mouth. The plaque will then begin to erode the enamel that provides a protective barrier for your teeth. Without the protective enamel, the bacteria and plaque begin to eat away at the actual tooth. Unattended, this process will not stop until it consumes the entire tooth down to its nerve root.
Now you see why your parents and dentist warned you about cavities at such an early age. But what can you do to make sure you do not suffer from cavities?
How to prevent cavities
There are a series of things you can do to keep your mouth cavity-free. It is not just as simple as brushing and flossing – although those daily routines play key roles. In fact, optimum oral health is about utilizing as many weapons as possible in defense of your teeth.
Perhaps the biggest weapon in your arsenal is a vigilant and caring dentist. Your oral healthcare professional cannot only help you keep your mouth as clean as possible; he or she can also see things you would never notice, no matter how watchful you are about your oral health. That is why you should see your dentist at least twice a year, no matter your age or oral health condition.
A thorough dentist can offer several cutting-edge and tried-and-true treatments that can help prevent cavities, including:
- Dental sealants – These are protective plastic coatings applied to the chewing surface of back teeth. Sealants protect the cervices of those teeth that easily collect food particles. In fact, sealants are even recommended for school-age children by the Centers for Disease Control. But they do wear out eventually and must be periodically reapplied.
- Fluoride treatments – Dentists have provided fluoride treatments for decades, and it is still an effective preventative for cavities.
- Antibacterial treatments – These can be especially helpful for people genetically predisposed to cavities. These treatments help diminish the harmful bacteria in your mouth.
As you can see there are several options that your dentist can provide. But you play an even bigger role in your oral health. And, beyond professional help, there are many things you can do at home to help keep your mouth cavity free.
- Brush daily – Yep, it’s still the best method for keeping your teeth healthy. And make sure you do so with fluoride toothpaste – ideally after eating or drinking anything besides water.
- Floss – You do not have to do this twice daily, just once a day will work. But make sure to use floss to clean between your teeth. You can also use an interdental cleaner – the plastic flossers you see in stores.
- Use mouthwash – This is not necessarily a daily routine, but if you are concerned about bacteria levels in your mouth, it could be a powerful ally. Ask your dentist their thoughts. They may even recommend a fluoride-based mouthwash.
- Drink tap water – Most public water supplies – including many of those in north Georgia – add fluoride during the treatment process. Bottled water may taste great, but it keeps you from enjoying a huge benefit in the shape of bacteria-killing fluoride. And the levels utilized in public water are way too low to be dangerous to other aspects of your health.
- Eat tooth-healthy foods – Just like a healthy diet is good for your waistline, so too is it good for your teeth. Most of these foods are actually the same. That means you should avoid sugary foods and beverages, as well as those based on simple carbohydrates (potatoes, corn, etc.), as the bacteria in your mouth feed off these substances. In fact, they love them. The sugar also helps food particles to stick to your teeth and promote decay. Sodas and juices are also dangerous because of a combination of sugar and acids, which eat away at your teeth’s protective enamel. Healthy foods, conversely, do not promote bacteria growth and even help clean your teeth. How? When you eat, you produce saliva, and that saliva cleans your teeth. NOTE: Do be aware of some healthy foods such as nuts, as they can be hard and cause chips and cracks in teeth.
- Avoid snacking – Try and stick to planned mealtimes, as constant snacking just promotes continued bacteria growth.
- Chew xylitol gum – This is not just any sugar free gum, it is flavored with xylitol, which does not promote bacteria growth. Chewing it also promotes saliva production, which helps cleanse your teeth. The gum can also pull away food particles otherwise stuck to your teeth.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption – Alcohol consumption can lead to decreased saliva production – especially while you’re sleeping, which is a time when your mouth bathes itself in saliva and cleanses itself. So, drinking too much can accelerate tooth decay.
- Do not use tobacco – Aside from staining your teeth and giving you terrible breath, tobacco can also promote tooth decay.
Follow the above steps you will be able to do much to ensure that you do not wind up in a dentist’s chair in need of a filling.
Make sure you have a dentist
If you have been missing out on dental exams or are looking for new dentist, know that Parrish-Childs Dentistry is here for you. Our full-service, friendly, and family-based approach to practice has served the health of patients throughout north Georgia for years. In fact, Dr. Parrish, DDS, and Dr. Childs, DMD, have over 40 years experienced combined.
We can offer a whole range of dental health services and will start with a thorough exam with our highly qualified and friendly staff – and help you to keep your mouth as cavity-free as possible.
Do not put off your dental care any longer! Call us today at 770-536-0581 and let us help ensure your optimum oral health.