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These Simple Cavity Prevention Tips can Help Preserve Your Smile

These Simple Cavity Prevention Tips Can Help Preserve Your Smile

Cavities (aka dental caries) are, as the name implies, holes in one or more of the protective layers of your teeth. The outer one is the enamel, the hardest bone in the entire body. Beneath it is the dentin, which is a calcified tissue softer than enamel and is typically pale yellow. The inner pulp consists of blood vessels, connective tissues, and nerves and an infection of the root canal can require surgery. Cavities are the second most common disease, next to the more common cold.

Bacteria naturally live in the mouth and feed off any particles of food that aren’t quickly cleaned off by brushing and flossing. Mixed with saliva, this results in a sticky and acidic film called plaque, which eats away at the enamel and dentin. This can also infect the gums, which eventually could pull away their support from teeth and result in their falling out or needing to be extracted.

Symptoms of caries include:

How to prevent these from happening? First, of course, thorough brushing and flossing. That ideally means devoting a full two minutes after breakfast and dinner to using a soft-bristle brush and a toothpaste with fluoride to scrub both sides of each tooth, stroking from the gum line to the tip of the tooth. The back teeth are hard to reach and so more challenging to clean.

Flossing is often done too quickly and ineffectively and should come after your last snack or beverage at night. You need to scrape both sides of each tooth, then move the floss to use a clean segment for the next one, to avoid dragging plaque to other areas. If you are having frequent cavities and periodontal (gum) problems, ask your dental hygienist to show you how to brush and floss correctly.

Second, eat a diet rich in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates like leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, beans, legumes, and whole grains. These are not so quickly reduced to simple sugars, like the refined carbohydrates (including white pasta and bread) that stick to the teeth. The other benefit from eating complex carbs is that they provide long-term energy and don’t produce a “sugar high,” followed by a crash and low energy and a craving for more carbs.

Minimize the sugar of any kind, but especially cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup (the average American consumes nearly 100 pounds of sugar per year in large part because it is widely used as a preservative). Use healthier alternatives like xylitol (the favorite of dentists), stevia, and monk fruit.

Third, you should have a thorough dental exam and a professional cleaning at least twice a year. Your dentist not only can try to visually detect tiny cavities that are getting started, but order a digital x-ray (which involves minimal radiation) if there is concern. Your hygienist has the tools and techniques that can prevent cavities and periodontal disease.

If you have not had a dental exam or cleaning within the past six months, call today for an appointment before cavities develop.