Give your oral health a boost to prevent cavities.
Every aspect of your oral health works together to help ensure that your teeth last as long as possible. Amazingly, this holds true from your tooth enamel, which is the hardest known biological material, to your saliva, which actively fights cavity-causing bacteria and contains minerals that help repair enamel. These well-orchestrated natural defense systems help prevent dental caries, commonly known as cavities, but they can’t defend against everything on their own—just like your immune system can’t prevent you from getting sick 100% of the time. But this doesn’t mean that cavities are inevitable—far from it! Much like you can boost your immune system to protect against viruses, you can take steps to prevent cavities and protect your oral health. Here are 10 ways you can prevent cavities and tooth decay.
1. Brush with fluoride toothpaste.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that strengthens your tooth enamel, helping prevent cavities. It can’t reverse tooth decay, but when there are trouble spots on your teeth that run the risk of turning into cavities, fluoride can help repair some of this damage! It’s an amazing example of just how good our bodies are at healing themselves.
Brushing your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste for two minutes twice a day is an easy but essential part of cavity prevention. You should be especially careful to brush your teeth after you’ve eaten or drunk something sugary. The longer these sugars sit on your teeth, the longer bacteria have to feed on them, so be especially careful to brush your teeth every night before bed—no matter how busy or tired you are! The habit pays off in the long run, improving your oral health by leaps and bounds. Plus, it sets a good example for your kids.
2. Switch to a new toothbrush regularly.
Do you know how your kitchen sponge gets a little bit gross after you’ve been using it for a while? It stains and the scrubbing side gets worn down, so you stop trusting it to clean your dishes well and you replace it. Your toothbrush follows a similar concept. The bristles of your toothbrush become worn and frayed over time, which makes it harder for them to clean your teeth effectively. Frayed bristles also provide a better surface for bacteria to grow—which isn’t what you want from your toothbrush!
Replacing your toothbrush about every four months, or whenever it begins to look frayed or stained, is a good way to ensure that your toothbrush is capable of doing its job well!
3. Visit your dentist regularly.
Scheduling regular dental appointments every six months is another huge part of preventing cavities and keeping your teeth healthy. It’s the dental equivalent of scheduling a regular checkup with your primary care physician.
During your regular appointment, Dr. Lang will examine your teeth and gums for signs of tooth decay or gum disease and will give your teeth a thorough professional cleaning. This removes buildups of plaque or hardened tartar, the latter of which you can’t get off during your regular at-home oral hygiene routine, from your teeth.
This thorough cleaning actively helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease, gives you a chance to get advice from Dr. Lang about your routine and areas of your teeth you may not be cleaning as well, and ensures that any oral health issues you do have will be caught early.
Prevention and early detection are both essential for your long-term oral health, so regular checkups are one of the best investments you can make in your oral health.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask your dentist questions.
When it comes to questions about your oral health, Dr. Lang is your best resource—so don’t be afraid to ask him questions! He’s happy to answer any of your questions, and he can provide you with a level of personalized advice that you won’t get from a Google search. Communicating with him about any symptoms you’re experiencing, informing him of new overall health diagnoses, or asking him for advice on different aspects of your oral hygiene can all help improve your long-term oral health.
5. Avoid frequent snacking and sipping.
Believe it or not, eating one or two large snacks during the day instead of eating small handfuls of food constantly is actually better for your oral health! This is because oral bacteria produce acid as they break down the sugars in the foods and drinks you consume. When you’re eating constantly throughout the day, the acidity level in your mouth stays high, which increases your chances of getting cavities. Eating one larger snack helps you minimize this, giving your mouth a chance for its acidity levels to return to normal.
The same concept applies to sugary drinks like coffee, tea, or soda—it’s best to drink them during meals or to at least space out how often you drink them instead of taking small sips constantly.
6. Eat crunchy fruits and veggies.
When you do eat a snack, choosing crunchy fruits or veggies is wise for more than just your diet—it’s actually great for your teeth as well! They contain a variety of vitamins and minerals that help your body build and maintain strong, healthy teeth and gums, but the crunchiness itself also has benefits for your teeth. As you chew, these foods help fight cavities by removing buildups of plaque from your teeth.
7. Drink plenty of water.
This may sound simple, but simply changing your routine so that you drink water between meals can make a significant difference in your oral health. Water doesn’t contain any sugar, so it doesn’t fuel the bacteria in your mouth. Instead, it helps flush food debris from your mouth, leaving oral bacteria with nothing to feed on. This protects your enamel from bacteria and allows your mouth’s acidity level to return to normal after you’ve eaten. Tap water is also often fluoridated, so drinking tap water actively helps strengthen and restore your enamel. It may seem ordinary, but water really is a cavity-fighting powerhouse!
8. Consider sealants or fluoride treatments.
If you’re worried about you or your child developing cavities, dental sealants or fluoride treatments can be a great way to protect and strengthen your teeth. Sealants are protective shields that are painted onto the chewing surfaces of teeth, protecting them from 80% of cavities for around two years, and providing lesser protection beyond that.
Similarly, fluoride treatments deliver higher amounts of fluoride directly to teeth in the form of a foam, gel, varnish, or rinse. You’ll still need to keep up with a regular oral hygiene routine, but these treatments both only take a few minutes and provide long-lasting benefits for your oral health. This makes them quick, easy ways to help protect teeth from decay.
9. Address your health on a holistic level.
Your entire body is connected in countless, intricate, amazing ways. One of the results of this is that overall health issues can impact your oral health—and vice versa. Autoimmune conditions and diseases like diabetes weaken your immune response, so they can make you more likely to develop gum disease. On the other hand, gum disease can make it harder for diabetic people to control their blood sugar. Knowing this information, however, is half the battle! Once you know that you’re more vulnerable to tooth decay or gum disease, you can learn how your illness and your oral health impact each other and then put that knowledge into action. You may need to pay special attention to your oral health, like by using antibacterial mouthwash to help prevent gingivitis, but these changes are often simple and don’t take much time—and the health benefits are worth it!
10. Prevent dry mouth.
If you had to make a list of your body’s defenses against cavities, would saliva make your list? It should! We don’t often think about it, but saliva is essential for the function of your entire mouth—including protecting your teeth from tooth decay. It doesn’t just flush food debris from your mouth, but actively fights cavity-causing oral bacteria and helps strengthen enamel. It does this by delivering high levels of calcium, fluoride, and phosphate ions to the surface of your teeth.
When you’re suffering from chronic dry mouth, which can result from certain illnesses, medications, or simple dehydration, you’re actually much more likely to suffer from tooth decay. Staying hydrated or using a special mouthwash designed to prevent dry mouth are both good ways to ensure that your saliva is able to do its job of protecting your teeth.
The systems that your body has in place to help fight tooth decay and ensure that your teeth stay healthy are absolutely amazing, but they can’t protect against everything. Thankfully, that’s where you come in! Forming a few simple, healthy habits helps your body do what it does best: keep you and your teeth healthy. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a regular consultation with Dr. Lang, you can call our office at any time.