How to Prevent Cavities: A Few Tips
Cavities. It’s a word that strikes dread in the hearts of most people. A cavity means dental work, sometimes pain if you delay treatment, and an inevitable day off to see the dentist. For those not seeing a dentist regularly, their first symptom of a cavity is a toothache, and toothaches are at the top of the no-fun list. In this article, we’ll teach you how to prevent cavities.
How great would it be if you could prevent cavities so you never have another filling or toothache? You’d be living the dream, right? Maybe…as long as you’re winning the fight against gum disease too. Cavities and gum disease are the top two causes of toothaches.
So how do you prevent both cavities and gum disease? Go ahead and write down the goal of being toothache-free, and then implement these 9 preventative measures.
1. See your dentist regularly.
The best first step on how to prevent cavities, gum disease, and a toothache is to see your dentist.
At least twice a year, visit Dr. Wilson and the team for a professional cleaning and evaluation. We will take a look at your overall health history as well as your oral health history. We’ll also take radiographs (digital X-rays) to see what’s going on beneath the surface of your gums and enamel.
What happens if you don’t see your dentist regularly?
Cavities are caused by tooth decay, and decay happens when the tooth becomes vulnerable to bacteria. It’s important that we evaluate the current state of your enamel to see if there are any weak spots where decay could set in so we can stop it before it starts. Treating any cavities that already exist is imperative so you don’t lose your teeth. Decay won’t stop until we remove the portions of the tooth that are decaying and seal off the rest of the tooth with a filling or a crown, preventing further decay.
As for gum disease, preventing the progression of gum disease is vital to keeping your teeth and maintaining the current shape of your face. If left untreated, gingivitis (the earliest stage of gum disease) will turn into periodontitis. Periodontitis results in damage to the supportive structures of your teeth and eventually leads to advanced periodontitis. Advanced periodontitis means the very bone beneath your teeth is under attack. Your teeth can become loose and will eventually fall out if left untreated. If you’re already experiencing this, come see Dr. Wilson. He’s an experienced periodontologist practicing advanced techniques that will restore your oral health as painlessly as possible.
If your gum disease hasn’t progressed this far or doesn’t exist, don’t worry—you’re going to prevent all of that from happening with a little help from your dental team.
2. Floss and brush at least twice a day.
You knew that’d make the list of tips on how to prevent cavities. But it’s worth repeating. Are you a once-a-day brusher? How often are you flossing?
Dental plaque starts forming a mere four hours after you’ve brushed. What is dental plaque? Plaque is a film that hangs out on your teeth, especially at the gumline. It’s a collection of bacteria, fed by the food you eat, kept warm and toasty by your body temperature, and hydrated by your saliva. While it is soft it’s easily removed through diligent brushing and flossing. Once plaque hardens, which takes less time than you might imagine, it’s officially called tartar, and tartar must be removed by a dental professional with the appropriate tools and skills.
Evict that bacteria before it can build its tiny tartar home and save your gums from a lot of pain and irritation. Your gums naturally pull away from the irritation caused by plaque and tartar. The bacteria housed in the tartar and plaque see your gums’ reaction as the perfect opportunity to expand their community and annex the areas below your gumlines. This, of course, results in more irritation and inflammation for your gums, and they recede more, creating even larger pockets of exposed tooth and tooth root—more ideal real estate for bacteria.
You can stop this terrible cycle by brushing and flossing at least twice a day to rid your gums of their irritants.
If it’s been a while since you’ve been to see a dentist, chances are you’ll need a deep cleaning to remove tartar before you will see any progress in your fight against gum disease. So schedule your appointment sooner rather than later.
3. Choose a fluoride toothpaste.
Make your brushing efforts more effective by using a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral, and at therapeutic levels (those found in regular, over-the-counter toothpastes), fluoride remineralizes your teeth, protecting them from bacterial invaders that lead to tooth decay.
If you’re drinking bottled water or well water, then you aren’t enjoying the benefits of fluoridated water. So a fluoride-containing toothpaste and mouthwash is especially important to your oral health and are some of the answers to your question of how to prevent cavities.
Make sure you tell your dentist if you primarily drink bottled or well water.
4. Evaluate your diet and beverages.
Kombucha, soda, seltzer water, lemonade—if it is acidic or carbonated, you should stay away. Carbonated water is fizzy thanks to carbon dioxide and it’s the carbon dioxide that undergoes a chemical reaction in your mouth. While this chemical reaction makes carbonation yummy, it’s rough on your enamel. The carbon dioxide is turned into carbonic acid, and acid in any form is never good for your enamel.
Maybe your favorite beverage is neither acidic nor carbonated. You’re in the clear, right? Check out the sugar content of your favorite drink. Sugar feeds the bacteria camped out in your mouth, bathing them in a buffet-worthy serving of their favorite food. They’re like the evolved version of graboids from Tremors 2, multiplying when there’s a plentiful supply of food.
That means you should avoid foods that are or turn into sugar too.
5. Rinse when you can’t brush.
You’ve finished up the most delicious lunch you’ve had in ages. Now it’s time to brush. The only problem is that you spent too much time at lunch and you don’t have time to squeeze in a brushing session right now. That’s okay. In a pinch, you can rinse instead.
You can use a fluoride mouthwash or water if mouthwash isn’t available. Tap water in most communities contains low levels of fluoride that will help shore up your teeth against decay, and rinse away food particles and that acid bath your mouth received from your lunch.
6. Consider a dental sealant.
The chewing surfaces of your teeth look like a mountain range up close. Miniscule food particles and bacteria can lodge in those nooks and crannies as well as between your teeth. Another tip on how to prevent cavities: use a dental sealant. It’s kind of like the ultimate raincoat for your teeth.
Talk to your dentist about it at your next appointment.
7. Replace your toothbrush frequently.
Bacteria live on your toothbrush, so replace your toothbrush often, and don’t wait until your bristles are frayed.
We’ll help you out with remembering when to replace your toothbrush by giving you a new one every time you come see us for your regularly scheduled professional cleaning and evaluation. So the only thing you really need to remember is to come see us and to replace your toothbrush between visits, especially if you’ve been sick recently.
8. Switch to an electric toothbrush and Waterpik.
Or you can forget about the traditional toothbrush altogether and go for a higher tech solution. Electric toothbrushes that have a spinning head have been shown to be more effective at removing plaque than manual toothbrushes.
And if you hate trying to fit your hand into your mouth while flossing, then consider the Waterpik flosser. You can always carry floss with you for those times when you’re not at home, but the Waterpik is a great solution for anyone who isn’t a faithful flosser because they don’t like using floss.
9. Listen to your body.
What do you do if you notice gum tenderness despite being the ideal dental patient who gets regular professional cleanings, brushes after every meal, and flosses at least once a day? You listen to what your body is telling you.
Go ahead and schedule that appointment with your dental team even if it hasn’t been six months since you last saw their smiling faces. They’ll be glad to see you and eager to figure out what’s happening.
After all, as your dental partners, we want to help you reach optimal oral health. No matter if you’re preventing oral disease or combatting it, or you’d like solutions on how to prevent cavities—we’re here to help.