Preventing dental diseases has never been more important. We live in an unprecedented time when access to routine dental care is limited for some and ill-advised for others. What can you do to protect yourself (and your loved ones) from cavities?
Did you know that the oral care products you use every day in your oral hygiene routine could help? There are specific ingredients that protect against cavities by fighting the bacteria that cause them, strengthening the enamel against acid attacks, and stop early cavities in their tracks.
It is important to note that none of these oral care products is a miracle cure to kill cavities. They all have to be used consistently with the appropriate technique in order to lower your cavity risk. Using the best toothpaste with a terrible brushing technique will not help stop cavities.
When it comes to preventing cavities, toothpaste can function to deliver powerful anti-cavity ingredients directly to the enamel. These ingredients work to fight cavities by strengthening the enamel and underlying dentin through a process called remineralization. Cavities develop through a process called demineralization, which softens and weakens the enamel. Remineralizing agents reverse that process.
There are several great remineralizing agents available in over-the-counter toothpaste. Here are the ingredients shown to remineralize enamel:
There is not a specific type of floss or ingredient floss can contain that helps fight cavities. You must choose the floss that meets your specific needs. Some people need thick fibrous floss to clean large spaces between the teeth, and others need slick floss that will easily go between tightly crowded teeth. The “right” floss is the one that you will use consistently!
If physical impairments make flossing impossible (which is the only excuse for not flossing), then you should consider floss alternatives. This includes interdental brushes, floss picks, and water flossers like the Waterpik.
Mouthwash is a great tool to add to your oral hygiene routine to loosen dental plaque and add important ingredients to the teeth. At this point, the only remineralizing ingredient available in over-the-counter mouthwash is fluoride. If you are using a fluoride mouth rinse to fight cavities, you should use it after brushing and flossing. This is because you want the fluoride in the rinse to stay on the teeth as long as possible.
The over-the-counter formulation most dentists recommend as a powerful anti-cavity mouthwash is PhosFlur by Colgate. Once available by prescription only, this rinse is now sold in most pharmacies and grocery stores in the toothpaste aisle.
It was originally intended for use by patients wearing orthodontic braces to help prevent the formation of the white halos that sometimes develop around brackets. Those white spots are the result of demineralization from dental plaque collecting around the braces. The high concentration of fluoride and phosphate in the rinse help to remineralize weak areas. This makes it a powerful cavity fighter.
The best way to use a fluoride-containing mouthwash is to brush and floss first. Then swish the mouth rinse vigorously around the mouth for 1-2 minutes. Spit out all of the mouthwash, and do NOT rinse your mouth. It is best to perform this routine as the last task before getting into bed so that the ingredients stay in contact with the teeth as long as possible.
In addition to the traditional tools of toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash, there are more tools you can use to keep your teeth clean and fight cavities. Some of these might surprise you!
Some people may have gaps between the teeth or small spaces between the teeth and gums. These spaces are likely to accumulate larger amounts of plaque and food debris throughout the day. You can reduce your risk of cavities in these areas by cleaning these areas as needed during the day rather than waiting until the day’s end. The simplest way to do this is to carry small interdental brushes, like GUM Soft-Picks, so that you can immediately remove food debris.
Chewing gum stimulates the production saliva, and saliva is a great cavity fighter! Of course, you need to make sure the gum is sugar-free so that you’re not inadvertently feeding those cavity-causing bacteria. The best chewing gum for fighting cavities is one containing the sweetener Xylitol. Xylitol is a plant-based sugar substitute that kills bacteria in the mouth. Ice Cubes gum contains two grams of xylitol per piece!
The active ingredient in teeth whitening gel, carbamide peroxide, kills the bacteria that cause cavities. Some people may be able to reduce their risk for cavities by wearing custom-fitted whitening trays with a 10 percent carbamide peroxide gel overnight. Not only will you get a bright, beautiful smile; it will be a healthier smile.
Almost every cavity is preventable. By using the right products in the right way, you can drastically lower your risk for tooth decay.