Cavities have been a bane of human existence. The American Dental Association reports that a preserved Sumerian text dating back to 5000 BC talks about a “tooth worm” that was to blame for cavities and other dental problems. Learning how to prevent cavities is not difficult, if you know how to beat the bacteria at their own game.
Review: What Causes Cavities?
Before you can prevent cavities, it helps to know what causes them. The root cause of cavities is acid, especially lactic acid, that is excreted by bacteria metabolizing carbohydrates such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose. This acid attacks the enamel of the teeth, and prolonged exposure – as is the case when plaque is not removed frequently – leads to the breakdown of the enamel in spots. This might have given the ancient Sumerians the idea about the tooth worm.
Prevent Cavities with Daily Tooth Brushing and Flossing
You will not be surprised to learn that the American Dental Association (ADA) suggests that you brush your teeth twice a day. Yet did you know that you should also floss your teeth every day? Despite the advertising slogans of some toothbrushes, there is nothing that cleans between the teeth like dental floss.
Prevent Cavities with an Intact Toothbrush
A toothbrush needs to have intact bristles to do its jobs. If your brush’s bristles are frayed or missing in parts, it is time to throw it out. Surprisingly, the ADA suggests to replace it only every three months or so, but if you take a good look at the average cheap supermarket toothbrush, you know that getting even one month out of it is pushing it. Replace your toothbrush whenever it looks like it needs it, even if it has not been three months.
Prevent Cavities with Fluoride Toothpaste
Have you fallen under the spell of the Internet rumors that expound at great length about the dangers of fluoride? Perhaps you are spending a sizeable sum of money on toothpaste that is fluoride and SLS free? Save your money! The ADA once again strongly urges consumers to brush with fluoride toothpaste to give the tooth enamel an extra boost in its fight against bacterial acid.
Prevent Cavities with Fluoride Mouthwashes
After brushing and flossing your teeth, it is time to put the finishing touch on your oral care with the use of fluoride mouthwashes. Mind you, swishing these liquids around in your mouth cannot take the place of solid oral hygiene, but when you use fluoride mouthwash, it will support what you have done thus far.
Prevent Cavities with Semiannual Dentist Visits
Plaque does not let go of your pearly whites without a fight and sometimes it builds up, trapping the acid causing bacteria underneath and preventing the toothbrush from doing a good job. Your dentist has the tools of the trade needed to remove built up plaque and if you visit your dentist twice a year, you have a good chance at preventing cavities.
Prevent Cavities with Sugarless Chewing Gum
Chew sugarless gum to increase the amount of saliva in your mouth and to decrease the amount of bacteria in the process. You know that saliva washes away bacteria on a continuous basis, making dry mouth – a side effect noted by a variety of medications – actually a quite serious condition. It enables bacteria to remain next to the teeth for prolonged periods of time, thereby lengthening the exposure to the acidic secretions.
Incidentally, chewing xylitol gum has been clinically proven to actually reduce the number of acid secreting bacteria in your mouth.
Prevent Cavities by Limiting the Numbers of Snacks during the Day
Dieticians tell you to increase the number of snacks; dentists tell you to limit the numbers of snacks during a day. If you are not committed to brushing after each meal, including snacks, cut down on the amounts of meals or snacks. Remember that each time food passes over your lips, bacteria munch on sugars, secrete acid, and put your dental enamel at risk.
Prevent Cavities in Your Child’s Mouth by Having Teeth Sealants Applied
Take your young child to a pediatric dentist and discuss having the molars sealed with a resin. It is not a total protection, but according to Informed Health Online, it cuts down the risk of getting cavities by 50%. Combine this with conscientious oral hygiene, and teeth sealants might be the extra punch that you need to knock out cavities altogether.
Sources: http://www.ada.org/public/resources/history/timeline_ancient.asp; http://www.ada.org/public/topics/cleaning.asp; http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=16556326; http://www.gesundheitsinformation.de/fact-sheet.268.191.en.html