When visiting the dentist for a regular checkup, many patients agree: they don’t want to hear the bad news about cavities that need to be filled. When tooth decay starts to set in, it’s essential to seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent the damaged part of the tooth from spreading.
A good dentist not only offers filling and cavity treatment, but they also teach patients how to prevent cavities. With good at-home habits and a few in-office preventive treatments, it’s possible to keep your teeth strong and avoid the need for fillings in the future.
Next time you visit our dental office, make sure you are having the conversation with our team about how to prevent cavities. We can offer standard advice about brushing and flossing, as well as personalized tips for anything unique that needs to be addressed.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
The first step to protect your teeth is to understand why cavities occur. When you are empowered with knowledge, then you can adjust your habits to avoid the things that increase the likelihood of cavity development.
Cavities (also known as tooth decay) happen when starches and sugars are left on the teeth. For example, you eat carbohydrates such as bread, soda, candy, fruit, cake, or milk and the compounds from the foods remain on the surface of the teeth.
There are bacteria in your mouth at all times, and these bacteria start to feed on the carbohydrates and create an acidic environment. The combination of food debris, bacteria, and the newly formed acid creates plaque that sticks to the surface of the teeth.
As the plaque stays on your teeth, the acid starts to dissolve the enamel – the hard outer surface of the teeth. As a result, small holes are created which are known as cavities. When these areas of tooth decay are left untreated, then the decay can continue to spread on the tooth.
Cavity Prevention Tips: Can Cavities Be Prevented?
Yes! It’s possible to prevent cavities by adjusting your daily habits and oral healthcare. Here are a few tips to follow so you know how to prevent cavities:
Brush Twice a Day
Make it a habit to use your toothbrush at least twice a day, for two minutes per brushing session. Be proactive about reaching all surfaces of the teeth so that you can remove any film or food particles that might be left behind from recent meals or drinks. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and make sure to replace the toothbrush every few months.
The best practice is to brush your teeth in the morning when you wake up, and then again before bed. Always make sure to brush before sleeping so you don’t have starches and sugars sitting stagnant on your teeth overnight.
It’s also a good idea to brush after each meal. Consider having a small toothbrush on hand at all times so you can always brush to rinse away food particles after eating.
Make sure you are also cleaning between your teeth daily. Even if you are proactive about brushing, the toothbrush can’t reach the crevices between the teeth. It’s necessary to use dental floss or interdental cleaners to reach these tight spaces.
Not only does flossing prevent cavities between the teeth, but it is also essential to reduce the risk of gum disease as well.
If flossing is painful for you in the beginning because it is causing bleeding or irritated gums, then it’s a sign that you need to maintain consistency with this habit. The more consistent you are about flossing, the better gum health you will maintain – which reduces the likelihood of tenderness and bleeding.
Use a Toothpaste That Contains Fluoride
Does fluoride prevent cavities? Yes! Using fluoride products regularly helps to strengthen the enamel, which reduces the risk of tooth decay. One of the simplest ways to get fluoride regularly is by using a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
Most over-the-counter toothpastes have fluoride. Or, your dentist might recommend a professional toothpaste that you can only purchase in the dental office that contains a higher concentration of fluoride.
Rinse with Mouthwash
Does mouthwash prevent cavities? Yes! Using mouthwash not only helps to rinse away the food particles and bacteria that can contribute to tooth decay, but quality mouthwash products also contain ingredients that strengthen the teeth.
For example, you might use a mouthwash that contains fluoride. Or, other rinses have antiseptic properties that kill the plaque-causing bacteria.
Keep in mind that mouthwash isn’t a substitution for brushing. You shouldn’t skip toothbrushing and simply rinse with mouthwash instead, because the best solution for how to prevent cavities is to use a brush that is physically removing any food particles or film that builds up on the teeth.
But if you pair mouthwash with brushing and flossing, then it can improve your oral health overall. For example, a good daily routine is to floss your teeth, then brush, and then finish with a fluoride mouthwash.
Cavity Prevention: Consider Your Diet
How can I protect my teeth from cavities naturally? One strategy is to consider the foods you are eating for each meal. Make sure you are choosing nutritious, healthy ingredients and avoiding foods with simple carbohydrates.
Fill your plate with fruits, vegetables, clean protein, and whole grains. Stay away from chips, soda, candy, cake, and other high-carbohydrate foods.
Also, consider the timing when you eat. The more frequently you eat or drink throughout the day, the more your teeth are exposed to the starches and sugars that can lead to tooth decay. So, instead of snacking throughout the day, be proactive about limiting your food intake to meal times – and make sure to brush your teeth after eating.
In-Office Dental Treatments
Additionally, there are treatments that can be done in the dental office to prevent cavities:
- Dental sealants
- Fluoride treatments
- Fillings (stops cavities from getting worse)
Can You Stop a Cavity Once it Starts?
Another question you might have is about how to prevent cavities from getting worse. If you know that you already have a few cavities, or your teeth are at a high risk for cavities in the future, then it can be helpful to know at-home treatments that slow the progress. Also, visit the dentist as soon as possible.
In the beginning stages of a cavity, good oral hygiene might stop or even reverse tooth decay. For example, a fluoride treatment might help to re-mineralize a soft spot to prevent it from turning into a full cavity.
But once the tooth decay starts to progress, then the best solution is to visit a dentist to discuss potential treatments. If a filling is necessary, then don’t delay – remember that the cavity will continue to spread if left untreated.
Call myDental for Treatments and Cavity Prevention
At myDental, we take a proactive approach to help our patients learn how to prevent cavities. We offer multiple locations for your convenience. Call to schedule an appointment and learn about the available dental services that we offer.