How Can I Prevent Cavities?

Ever heard that phrase, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”?  It is never more true than when applied to cavities.

Why Prevent Cavities?

Tooth enamel is one of the only parts of the body that cannot heal itself.  For this reason, cavities are never really cured, only “restored”.  We cannot regenerate enamel to cure a cavity.  We have to remove the area affected by decay and replace it with something different, called a restoration.  It restores the tooth with something that is not tooth enamel.

Because we can never replace enamel, protecting it and preventing cavities is of the utmost importance.

Another reason prevention is so important is that 99% of cavities are preventable.  The effort put into preventing cavities truly pays off.

Here are the most important steps you can take to prevent cavities on your teeth.

Cut Out Sugar

By sugar, we mean almost all simple carbohydrates.  Why?  Because bacteria cannot cause cavities on your teeth without carbohydrates.  The bacteria feed on sugars and produce an enamel-damaging acid that softens and weakens the tooth.

By reducing your sugar intake, you reduce the power for bacteria to cause cavities.  Start paying attention to the nutritional labels on the things you eat and drink.  You’ll be surprised at how many grams of sugars you take in each day.  Cutting this amount of sugar not only protects your teeth; it will also help you lose weight, fight diabetes, and reduce chronic inflammation in the body.  Some studies even show that a low-sugar diet lowers one’s risk for many types of cancer.

Avoid Acidic Drinks

Which drinks are acidic?  Pretty much everything except water . . . And even some bottled waters are acidic in pH!!  As stated above, the bacteria causing cavities on teeth produce acid, that softens and weakens enamel.  When you drink acidic beverages, you create an overall acidic environment in your mouth, allowing these bacteria to flourish and predisposing your enamel to softening.

We see many cavities in patients who only drink diet soda or sparkling water or sports drinks.  The acidic pH is the culprit!

Maintain Great Oral Hygiene

What role do brushing and flossing have in preventing cavities?  They remove cavity-causing bacteria from the teeth.  When you remove plaque, you remove the bacteria it contains.  Cavities often develop between the teeth in people who do not floss.

Adding an antiseptic mouthwash will also help remove bacteria from your mouth.

The importance of oral hygiene cannot be overstated.  Soft plaque buildup does not stay soft and easy to remove for long.  Over time, plaque begins to mineralize, or harden into tartar (also called calculus).  Tartar cannot be removed by simple brushing and flossing.  This is why performing great oral hygiene every single day is essential to preventing cavities.

Consistent Dental Visits

Consistent dental visits help prevent cavities in many ways. A professional teeth cleaning is necessary to remove all the areas of tartar buildup from areas you missed with your home care.  The dentist’s evaluation enlightens you to risk factors and preventive options that will give you an even better chance at preventing cavities.

Treat Dry Mouth

One of the biggest causes of cavities in adults is dry mouth.  Saliva is one of the body’s best weapons against cavities.  When prescription medications cause a decrease in the production of saliva, the mouth becomes dry, and bad cavity-causing bacteria can proliferate.  Chewing sugar-free gum can stimulate saliva.  Using oral care products like Biotene and Xylimelts can also help combat the effects of dry mouth.  Talk to your dentist about how you can improve your dry mouth and protect your teeth.

Use Fluoride as Recommended by Your Dentist

Fluoride is the dentist’s best weapon against cavities.  Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral, and when applied to the teeth, it incorporates itself into the enamel.  This leads to stronger, harder enamel, which is exactly the opposite of what happens when sugar, acid, and bacteria hang out on a tooth.  Fluoride can even stop very early cavities in their tracks, totally preventing the need for fillings.

If your dentist finds that you have a high risk for developing new cavities, he or she may prescribe a fluoride toothpaste or gel that is a higher strength than what you buy over-the-counter.  If so, make sure to use it according to the instructions.  It is possible to get too much fluoride and experience negative side effects.

More Questions about Preventing Cavities?

Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He will assess your level of cavity risk and give you customized recommendations to protect your teeth and prevent cavities.

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