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Cavities are a common problem, but they are preventable. Proper oral hygiene habits and lifestyle choices can help keep your teeth healthy and cavity-free.
However, remember that none of these oral care products are a miracle cure. They must be used consistently with the appropriate technique to lower your risk of developing cavities.
Here are some effective and dentist-approved cavity prevention tips:
Regarding cavity prevention, toothpaste can deliver powerful anti-cavity ingredients directly to the enamel.
These ingredients work to fight cavities by strengthening the enamel and underlying dentin. This works through a process called remineralization.3
Cavities develop through demineralization. This process softens and weakens the enamel. Remineralizing agents reverse that process.3
Three remineralizing ingredients can be found in over-the-counter toothpaste:
Floss doesn't contain a specific ingredient that prevents cavities. However, flossing daily helps prevent plaque buildup between teeth that can lead to decay.
You should choose floss that meets your specific needs. Some people need thick floss to clean large spaces between their teeth. Others need slick floss that will easily go between crowded teeth.
If physical impairments make flossing impossible, you should consider an alternative like:
Mouthwash helps loosen dental plaque, kills bacteria, and freshens breath. The only remineralizing ingredient available in over-the-counter mouthwash is fluoride.
If you use a fluoride mouth rinse to fight cavities, you should use it after brushing and flossing. This is because you want the fluoride to stay on your teeth as long as possible.
PhosFlur by Colgate is a highly recommended over-the-counter mouthwash for cavity prevention. The product used to be available by prescription only. However, it's now sold in most pharmacies and grocery stores.
Your diet can also play a role in cavity prevention. Eating foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates can increase your risk of developing cavities.7
Dental caries can develop when the bacteria in your mouth metabolize sugars. The sugars create an acid that demineralizes the tooth’s hard tissues.8
You should limit sugary snacks and drinks as much as possible. Foods like candy, cookies, cake, and soda contain large amounts of sugar. Avoid foods that stick to your teeth as well.
Instead, focus on eating foods that are high in calcium and fiber. These minerals help strengthen the enamel of your teeth. Foods like cheese, yogurt, nuts, and leafy greens are all good sources of these minerals.9
You should visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings. Dentists can detect cavities in their early stages and provide treatment to prevent them from worsening.
Your dentist may also recommend additional treatments like sealants or fluoride varnishes. These treatments can help protect your teeth from cavities.
In addition, dentists can provide you with personalized advice on how to prevent cavities. They can recommend specific products and techniques tailored to your individual needs.
Tobacco products can increase your risk of cavities and other oral health problems.
The CDC states, "Untreated tooth decay is higher in people who smoke cigarettes. Over 40% of adults aged 20 to 64 who smoke cigarettes have untreated tooth decay."10
Smoking also stains teeth and causes bad breath. It's best to avoid all forms of tobacco if you want to keep your teeth healthy.
Dental sealants are a thin coating of plastic applied to the chewing surfaces of your back teeth. This coating helps prevent food and bacteria from getting stuck in the grooves of your teeth, which can lead to cavities.
Sealants protect against 80% of cavities for two years and continue to protect against 50% for up to 4 years. They can help protect your teeth from cavities and help eliminate the need for expensive treatments.
Using an electric toothbrush helps clean hard-to-reach places when brushing your teeth. Electric toothbrushes may provide a more thorough cleaning than manual brushes, helping reduce the risk of cavities.
Remember to find an electric toothbrush that fits in your mouth comfortably. This makes it easier to brush away bacteria and prevent cavities.
You should replace your brush head every three months. If the bristles fray before then, change the brush head sooner.
Some people have gaps between their teeth. These spaces will likely collect larger amounts of plaque and food debris throughout the day.
You can reduce your risk of cavities in these areas by cleaning them as needed during the day rather than waiting until nighttime.
The simplest way to do this is by carrying small interdental brushes. For example, GUM Soft-Picks can be a convenient alternative to dental floss. While Soft-Picks aren't as effective as dental floss, they remove food debris quickly.
Chewing gum stimulates the production of saliva. Saliva is an excellent cavity fighter.11 The gum should be sugar-free so you are not feeding cavity-causing bacteria.
The best chewing gum for fighting cavities is one containing the sweetener xylitol. This is a plant-based sugar substitute that kills bacteria in the mouth.
The active ingredient in teeth whitening gel is carbamide or hydrogen peroxide. These ingredients kill the bacteria that cause cavities.
One study shows that people may be able to reduce their risk for cavities by wearing custom-fitted whitening trays with a 10 percent carbamide peroxide gel overnight. The trays elevate the pH above the level at which the caries process can occur.12
However, further research is needed to determine the long-term effects of whitening on cavities.
As mentioned earlier, toothpaste contains ingredients that prevent cavities. Toothpaste tablets are an alternative to using tubes of toothpaste. One of the best features of toothpaste tablets is that they prevent cross-contamination.
Toothpaste tablets are also easy to use. They work like regular toothpaste and help prevent cavities. Simply chew on the tablets, and they will begin to foam. Then, brush as usual.
Look for toothpaste tablets with hydrated silica. This active ingredient gives the tabs a mild abrasiveness to remove superficial stains effectively.
Awareness of the different signs and symptoms of cavities can help you prevent them from worsening. Common signs and symptoms of cavities include:
See your dentist immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms. Early detection and treatment can help prevent further damage to your teeth.
Almost every cavity is preventable. Using the right products correctly can significantly lower your risk for tooth decay. The suggestions above are some of the most effective ways to prevent cavities and improve oral health.
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