Common Questions About Oral Health
Great oral care and regular trips to the dentist are essential tools that help you to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Another tool that’s just as important, however, is being well informed about oral health in general, your specific oral health, and understanding why certain things help or harm teeth. This knowledge will help you to make informed decisions regarding the best way to keep your mouth healthy and prevent things like cavities. In order to give you the tools you need to gather this knowledge, here are some of the most common questions we hear about oral health.
Do dentists get cavities?
Most people say they feel a little bit self-conscious when their dentist finds a cavity. A lot of this seems to stem from the idea that dentists never get cavities. Due to their extensive education on oral health and knowledge of exactly what issues tooth and gum decay can cause, dentists do tend to take more care with their oral hygiene than average Americans. This does tend to decrease their likelihood to get cavities, but it doesn’t make them immune to them. In fact, most people—92% of adults between the ages of 20 and 64—will suffer from at least one cavity during their adult life. So next time you’re at the dentist, feeling embarrassed that you have a cavity or a “problem spot,” remember that your dentist is also a dental patient, and has probably had a cavity before, too. They understand that it can happen to anyone!
Can I reverse a cavity with good oral hygiene?
It’s never too late to institute great oral hygiene to protect your teeth, but you can’t reverse a cavity that’s already there by doing so. Once bacteria has eaten through your enamel, there’s no going back; you’ll need to have the decay taken out and the cavity filled. You can, however, help rebuild “problem spots” that haven’t yet developed into cavities by using fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash regularly. Fluoride is a mineral that can help harden the remaining enamel, preventing what otherwise could become a cavity.
Am I just doomed to get lots of cavities?
In almost all cases, there’s no such thing as “soft teeth” that make cavities inevitable. There are risk factors, however, that put certain people at a higher risk for developing cavities. These can include family history, certain medications or diseases such as diabetes, smoking or other forms of tobacco use, and more. Fitting any number of these risk factors, however, doesn’t doom you to years of fillings. Knowledge is power, and knowing that you have an increased risk of cavities simply helps you prepare better. Brushing your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes, flossing and using mouthwash daily, and visiting the dentist twice a year becomes even more important if you’re at a higher risk for decay.
If you’re still having problems with cavities even though you’re doing this regularly, discuss your options with Dr. Lang. You may also want to try brushing three times a day. Keep a toothbrush in your desk at work and brush your teeth after lunch; in some countries, such as South Korea, this is the average level of oral care. If it keeps your teeth healthy and cavity-free, then it’ll be worth the extra few minutes of effort.
Do I really have to visit the dentist twice a year?
Yes. Visiting the dentist twice a year is the average recommendation. Some patients, such as those suffering from gum disease, may need to go more often. The reason you should be going to the dentist twice a year is two-fold: prevention and early detection. If you wait until you’re experiencing pain to go to the dentist, you’ll likely need a bigger procedure that will cost you a lot more money than a simple checkup; this is because many dental issues, such as cavities and gum disease, don’t cause pain until they’re well advanced. Your dentist is trained to spot cavities and pick out signs of early or severe gum disease. Going regularly will help your dentist spot these issues sooner, which will allow you to make the necessary changes to your oral hygiene and save you money in the long run.
Is flossing and using mouthwash necessary?
Flossing keeps your gums healthy by reaching and removing bacteria in areas that your toothbrush simply can’t. Your gums have a huge impact on your overall oral health, and at its worst, gum disease can cause you to lose teeth. If you’ve struggled to floss because your gums bleed every time you try, the easiest way to keep your gums from bleeding is actually to keep flossing. This bleeding is a sign of inflammation caused by bacteria and may mean that you have gum disease, which is incredibly common but very important to address before it becomes serious. If you keep flossing once a day, the bleeding should stop in about two weeks.
Some mouthwashes simply give you better breath without improving your oral health, so it’s important to pay attention to what you’re buying. A good mouthwash that contains cavity- or gingivitis-fighting ingredients can be a useful addition to your oral care routine. Swishing it through your mouth allows it to reach nooks and crannies that your toothbrush and even your floss can’t reach. This is why brushing your teeth, flossing, and using mouthwash are all important steps of a solid oral hygiene routine. They each reach areas that the others can’t, working together to give you a thorough clean.
While everyone—including dentists—will likely experience a cavity at some point in their lives, it’s important to do your best to avoid them. Preventative measures such as regular dentist trips and a well-informed dental hygiene routine that is tailored to your needs are the best way to avoid cavities; with just a little extra effort, your health and your wallet will both be better off.