No matter how clean you keep your mouth, it is home to multiple kinds of bacteria. Some are helpful, while others are harmful. Cavities form when harmful bacteria in your mouth form a colony along your teeth, gradually eating away at the tooth enamel and invading further into the tooth structure. Cavity prevention is a constant battle, but there are five main ways to keep cavities at bay.
Cleaning your teeth and gums is the single best way to prevent cavities. The act of brushing your teeth not only removes food particles and debris, but it stops bacteria from attaching to your teeth. Try to brush after every meal, especially if you have braces or are prone to cavities. At a minimum, brush twice per day and rinse your mouth thoroughly with water after meals. Floss at least once per day to remove debris and bacteria from between your teeth.
Regular dentist visits provide a more thorough cleaning than is possible at home, and allow your dentist to catch any developing issues before they become severe. For most people, visiting the dentist twice per year is ideal. If you have any dental issues or are prone to cavities or periodontal disease, you might need to see the dentist more frequently. Ask your dentist what the best schedule is for you.
A dental sealant coats the grooves in the chewing surfaces of the back teeth with a protective plastic, sealing off the nooks and crannies that can harbor plaque and bacteria. Sealants should be checked at every dentist visit to ensure that they have not broken or fallen out. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommend that all children receive preventive dental sealants. Your dentist will let you know whether dental sealants are a good choice for you.
Although fluoride has been hotly debated in recent years, the evidence shows that it helps to harden tooth enamel. For many people, simply brushing with fluoride toothpaste is sufficient. For others, however, extra fluoride can help to prevent cavities. In particular, the rise in bottled water consumption has led many people to get less fluoride than they would from drinking tap water. Fluoride treatments run the gamut from simple mouth rinses to at home prescription toothpastes, so ask your dentist what is best for you.
Sugar has long been implicated in the development of cavities, because it provides both an easy source of energy for bacteria and a source for the glue they produce to bind to teeth. Like most things in life, however, sugar consumption is not inherently evil. Instead, it should be consumed in moderation, and you should take care to rinse your mouth or brush your teeth as soon as possible.
Other foods that tend to get stuck in the teeth, such as sticky candies or potato chips, can also raise the risk for cavities. As with sugary foods, it is important to brush away the remnants of these foods as soon as you can. At a minimum, rinse your mouth thoroughly with plain water when you are finished eating.
Some foods are actually good for your teeth, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, which increase the production of saliva and physically remove debris and plaque from your teeth. Besides plain water, unsweetened coffee and tea can help to rinse out your mouth. Chewing unsweetened gum is a good way to freshen breath and enhance the flow of saliva.
Preventing cavities is both an art and a science. Sticking to the five tips above can dramatically reduce your risk, and your dentist might have additional suggestions based on your unique dental health.
At Family Dental Care of Bellevue, we are committed to providing quality dental care to our patients and their families. We are proud to have been voted one of the best dental offices in Washington State. If you are ready to take the first steps toward improving your dental health, we invite you to call 425-643-5778 today to make an appointment for your initial consultation.