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Advice for Preventing Cavities

Do you believe it’s okay to only brush and floss when you have the time in the morning? Maybe you also believe it’s okay to skip brushing your teeth at night if you’re tired? Sure, you make your kids do it, but with your own oral hygiene it is okay to become lax because you are a busy adult. You may be in for a rude shock when your dentist tells you that you have a cavity.

Whenever we eat or drink, a sticky film, called plaque, forms on our teeth. When we eat or drink sugars, the bacteria in plaque feeds on the sugar and turns it into an acid. The acid will break down tooth enamel if you don’t remove it with regular brushing and flossing. You will develop tooth decay and a hole will form in your tooth. Without treatment, the decay will worsen and the cavity will grow larger. Eventually, the decay will reach the pulp of your tooth, causing you intense pain.

Regular brushing and flossing and limiting your sugar and carb intake can go a long way toward reducing your risk of developing a cavity. Also, if you have routine dental exams, your dentist can catch small cavities while they are easy to treat.

Tips to Stop Cavities

While some people are more prone to developing cavities than others, cavities are not inevitable. Most are entirely preventable.

1. Brush Twice Daily

Brushing your teeth twice daily is very important for preventing cavities. Always use a fluoride toothpaste and a soft toothbrush. You need to change your toothbrush every four to six months and store it upright to prevent bacteria from forming on it. Brush before eating breakfast, unless you can wait 30 minutes after eating to brush. When you eat acidic foods, like orange juice, it temporarily weakens tooth enamel. You don’t want to brush for 30 to 30 minutes after eating.

2. Floss Every Day

Flossing removes plaque and food particles that your toothbrush can’t reach. It’s better to floss and then brush as brushing removes the food particles you dislodge. The fluoride in your toothpaste can also do a better job of protecting in between teeth. Only 30 percent of American adults floss every day according to a recent study. If flossing with traditional string dental floss takes too long, or you have trouble reach between all your teeth, ask your dentist about alternatives. It’s important to find a way that is easy for you to floss every day since most adults who develop cavities get them between their teeth.

3. Ask About Sealants

If you are at risk for cavities, your dentist may suggest sealants. Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that cover the tops of molars. It’s easy for bacteria to get trapped in the pits, even if you brush well. The sealant will protect a tooth for many years, although your dentist will check them during each exam to make sure they have not cracked or chipped.

4. Watch Your Sugar Intake

While it seems like sugar is in almost everything that tastes good, limiting your sugar in foods and drinks will help prevent cavities. Bacteria present in your mouth feeds on sugar, producing an acid that erodes tooth enamel, causing cavities. When you do have sugar, brush your teeth afterward. If this isn’t possible, rinse your mouth with water or chew a piece of sugarless gum. Eating and apple can also help cleanse your teeth when you can’t brush.

5. Get Regular Routine Dental Exams

When you see a dentist every six months, you give your dentist an opportunity to find small cavities before they become a painful problem. Small cavities don’t cause pain and they may not be discovered without an x-ray. If you wait until the tooth hurts to see a dentist, treatment will be more invasive and more expensive.

What Cavity Treatments are Available?

Your treatment options often depend on how large the cavity is and they will include:

Dental Fillings

A filling is the most common cavity treatment. You dentist will numb the tooth and then use a drill to remove the decay. Once the cavity is cleaned out, he or she will fill it. Typical filling materials include amalgam (metal) and white composite resin.

Crowns

Dentists use dental crowns, or caps, to cover teeth with large fillings in them. With large fillings, you will lose enough tooth structure to make the tooth weak. Without a crown, the tooth will eventually chip or crack from the pressure of chewing or biting. Most crowns are made from porcelain or porcelain-fused-to-metal, although you can also get stainless steel or gold crowns.

Root Canals

When you have deep decay that reaches the pulp, the soft center of your tooth, a dentist will suggest a root canal. This usually happens when you have an untreated cavity that may have caused discomfort, but you ignored it until the pain became severe. Your dentist will remove the pulp, fill the tooth and cap it with a crown to restore the tooth’s function.

New Technologies and Ways to Prevent Cavities

You may read about people online who claim they can reverse cavities using natural methods. They claim you don’t have to visit a dentist to cure a cavity. Be wary of these claims, as there is no way to reverse a cavity. If you have a white spot on your tooth, this is where the enamel is weak, and this can be reversed with good oral hygiene. If you have an actual hole in your tooth, only a dental professional can treat it. Researchers are working on ways to cure cavities using stem cells, but the treatment isn’t available yet. Your best option is to do everything you can to prevent cavities from forming in the first place and see your dentist for a routine exam every six months to catch small cavities early.

Spending time and money to fix cavities is something you probably want to avoid. We know the feeling. If you follow the tips above and start conversations with your dentist about the best way to care for your teeth, you will be able to live a life free of decay. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

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