Cavities, or holes in your teeth, are often the result of tooth decay. Tooth decay is damage to a tooth’s surface or enamel. Our mouths are full of bacteria - both good and bad. The bacteria that contributes to tooth decay binds with food particles to create a sticky layer called plaque.
The bacteria in plaque will turn the sugars and starches you eat into acids in your mouth, which begin to eat away at your enamel. Plaque contributes to tooth decay and can lead to gum irritation and disease. Tooth decay can lead to pain, infection, and tooth loss if left untreated. Here are some tricks you should know to enjoy your sugary treats cavity-free.
What You Can Do at Home
While biannual trips to the dentist are essential in maintaining your oral health, there are steps you can take at home that will reduce your chances of needing more serious dental care.
At-Home Oral Care: The Basics
Your oral hygiene routine should include the necessary basics: brushing, flossing, and rinsing.
It is essential that you brush your teeth twice a day, morning and night, for two minutes at a time. Plaque will form in just a few hours overnight and throughout your day. Brushing your teeth in the morning and evening will help prevent buildup by removing it before it hardens into tartar.
Make sure you use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste while brushing the front, back, and chewing surfaces of your teeth. Also, keep in mind that toothbrushes should be changed every 3-6 months to prevent under-brushing with weak or damaged bristles.
It is essential that you floss at least once a day before you brush, whether you do so in the morning or afternoon. Flossing helps reach all of the in-between spaces that your toothbrush cannot, aiding in plaque and food removal. Food stuck in between your teeth not only leads to cavities but is a leading cause of bad breath.
Rinsing your mouth with an antimicrobial mouthwash after you brush your teeth will aid in the reduction of plaque and help prevent cavities. The average person gets fluoride every day from various sources, including toothpaste and many sources of drinking water. Fluoride, along with your saliva, helps your teeth repair themselves by replacing the minerals lost throughout the day when eating sugary and starchy foods and drinks.
If you do not get sufficient fluoride on a daily basis, your teeth will not be able to repair themselves faster than they decay, leading to detrimental tooth decay. Introducing a fluoride rinse in addition to your fluoride toothpaste will help ensure that your teeth have the minerals they need to stay strong and healthy.
At-Home Oral Care: The Extras
In addition to the basics mentioned above, maintaining a healthy diet and drinking fluoridated water can give you an edge in preventing tooth decay.
Conscious Eating and Drinking
There are two good places to start when focusing on your oral care: limiting snacks or small, frequent meals, in addition to prioritizing your water intake. Continuously eating food or drinking non-water beverages can significantly impact your teeth’s ability to repair themselves. Sticking to specific meals and upping your water intake gives your teeth downtime to repair and strengthen.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking fluoridated water keeps teeth strong and reduces tooth decay by about 25% in children and adults. Most water contains some fluoride, but not enough to prevent cavities. Check if your water is fluoridated, and what brands fluoridate their water bottles.
What Your Dentist Can Do For You
While brushing, flossing, and rinsing your teeth are the foundation of your oral health, visiting the dentist twice a year is also required to ensure that your at-home care is doing what it needs to.
While you may be able to detect a cavity on your own, a dentist or an X-ray is typically needed for a proper diagnosis. Ideally, you should start seeing a dentist every six months, starting six months after your first baby tooth. Frequent check-ups and cleanings are key factors in maintaining your oral hygiene and preventing late diagnoses of tooth decay. Your dental hygienist and dentist will be able to discuss the measures you are taking in your oral hygiene routine and help you make any adjustments you may need.
Dental sealants act as a barrier between your teeth and acids to prevent plaque buildup and are placed on the chewing surfaces of your molars. Dental sealants can be placed as soon as an individual’s permanent adult molars come in, typically around 12 years old. Dental sealants are not permanent and will need to be replaced every few years, but when they are in place, they have been shown to reduce tooth decay by 80%.
Complete Health Dentistry at Lynn Dental Care
Lynn Dental Care understands the importance of your smile. With a staff that treats you like family and over 40 years of experience, we don't just treat teeth — we treat people! To schedule your appointment or learn more about our family dentistry, restorative dentistry, and holistic well-being services, please contact us online or call us today at (972) 954-4434.