Right behind the common cold, tooth decay is the second most common disease in humans. In the United States, 90 percent of adults have had at least one cavity and 1 in 4 has untreated cavities. More than half of all teenagers ages 12 to 19 have cavities.
Cavities, also known as tooth decay, can have serious consequences for your dental health and for your overall health. Tooth decay can cause enough pain to prevent you from sleeping, eating, going to work or school, and enjoying life. Pain, chewing problems and poor appearance associated with cavities can be especially tough on kids.
Fortunately, it is never too late to start taking care of your mouth. Taking certain steps today can help you prevent cavities tomorrow.
10 Tips for Preventing Cavities
1. Know the signs and symptoms of cavities
Cavities cause specific signs and symptoms, which include:
- Tooth sensitivity that affects just one tooth rather than affecting several teeth at once
- Bad breath, as the same bacteria that causes bad breath also causes tooth decay and cavities; cavities erode your enamel, which creates an inviting place for bacteria to hide
- Toothaches – cavities are among the most common causes of toothaches; toothaches caused by cavities are usually worse after eating or drinking, and especially after eating sweets
- Pain when biting down or chewing
- Visible dark spots or holes
2. Brush and floss as recommended
Brushing and flossing removes food and plaque that can lead to cavities. The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once daily.
While brushing and flossing are highly effective in preventing cavities, about 30 percent of Americans are not brushing enough; only about 35 percent floss their teeth every day and 19 percent never floss.
3. Use the right toothbrush
The right toothbrush will remove the most food debris possible without damaging your tooth enamel or your gums. For most people, a soft-bristled toothbrush is the most comfortable and safest choice. The head of the toothbrush should be small enough to reach all the surfaces of your teeth comfortably. Manual toothbrushes do an adequate job of cleaning teeth, but you may find that using an electric toothbrush helps you brush regularly and thoroughly.
4. Use proper brushing techniques
- Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums
- Move the brush back and forth, making short strokes
- Brush all of the surfaces of your teeth
- Angle the brush vertically and move it up and down to clean the inside surfaces of your front teeth
5. Use an antimicrobial mouthwash
Antimicrobial mouthwash kills bacteria and other microbes that lead to gum disease and tooth decay. Swishing with mouthwash can help rinse away particles brushing and flossing leaves behind. Look for a mouthwash containing fluoride, a natural mineral that helps keep enamel strong and reduce your risk for cavities.
6. Cut back on sugary and acidic drinks
The bacteria that cause cavities feeds on the sugar from the food and drinks you consume. The bacteria convert this sugar into acid, which weakens tooth enamel and makes teeth susceptible to cavities. The acid in drinks can also wear away the enamel that protects your teeth.
7. Drink more water
Most municipal water contains fluoride to keep your tooth enamel strong. When shopping for bottled water, make sure it contains fluoride.
8. Quit smoking
Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body including your mouth, teeth and gums. Smoking causes dry mouth, which means you do not have enough saliva in your mouth. Saliva sweeps away small bits of food that feed cavity-causing bacteria. Saliva also contains calcium, phosphorous, fluoride and other minerals that keep your enamel strong. Quitting smoking can restore saliva to healthy levels.
9. Get an exam at a dentist
Your dentist can spot the early signs of cavities and provide treatment that prevents cavities from getting worse. Your dentist can also provide more information for reducing your risk of cavities.
10. Find out your risk for getting cavities
While anyone with teeth can get cavities, certain factors can increase your risk for tooth decay. Identifying your risk factors early gives you an opportunity to make the necessary changes to reduce your risk for cavities. Risk factors include:
- Eating sticky, sugary or acidic foods
- Frequent snacking or sipping
- Inadequate brushing
- Inadequate fluoride intake
- Dry mouth
- Eating disorders, heartburn or other medical conditions
Williams & Daily Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist located in North Raleigh, NC with a team of dedicated dentists enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes. Contact Williams & Daily at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.