The best way to avoid painful and expensive dental issues is to prevent them. While there is no magic product or routine that can guarantee perfect oral health, there are certainly several tried and true measures you can apply to fend off tooth decay. Here are 8 steps our dentists recommend to prevent tooth decay.
- Brush your teeth twice a day. Are we starting to sound like a broken record yet? There is no getting around this vital element of your oral hygiene routine. Use a soft bristled toothbrush and move the bristles back and forth in short, tooth-wide strokes. Be sure to brush every side of your teeth (front, back, and chewing surfaces) and use a dentist recommended fluoridated toothpaste.
- There are some areas of your teeth that cannot be reached by your toothbrush, regardless of how thorough you are brushing. Flossing removes food particles and build up in hard to reach spaces between your teeth. While these spots might seem small in comparison to the effort required to keep them clean, they are the perfect location for bacteria to accumulate and one of the most common sites of tooth decay.
- See your dentist regularly. Don’t skip out on routine dental cleanings and checkups. When plaque is not completely removed from your teeth, it hardens into a substance called tartar. This can only be removed using special tools during a professional cleaning. Tartar buildup can make it difficult to effectively clean your teeth and is a precursor for tooth decay and gum disease. Besides the great feeling of clean, shiny teeth- routine visits allow you and your dentist to stay on top of your oral health and address any discovered problems before they turn into major dental issues.
- Ask your dentist about sealants. Sealants are a thin, plastic coating that is applied to the chewing surfaces of your back teeth. They act as a defensive barrier between your teeth and food and plaque and are especially helpful at protecting the vulnerable grooves and crevices in your molars and premolars that are a hot spot for tooth decay. Children and teenagers are obvious candidates for sealants, but they are also beneficial for adults. They are painless and easy for your dentist to apply. And, are relatively inexpensive, especially when you consider the great preventative benefits they offer.
- Eat healthy, cavity preventing foods. Certain foods are awesome tools for preventing tooth decay. Calcium rich foods like dairy products, leafy greens and almonds help to strengthen and remineralize your teeth. Foods high in fiber, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and bran, keep saliva flowing. Saliva is a natural tooth remineralizer and also washes away food particles and harmful acids that build up in your mouth.
- Avoid harmful food choices. Just as important as eating the good stuff is avoiding the bad. Acidic foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes and vinegar wear away at your enamel. Thin enamel is a precursor to tooth decay. Other food and drinks like wine, coffee and red pasta sauces are common offenders for staining teeth. Finally, there is the classic warning that chewy, sugary foods stick to teeth and cause cavities. If you do choose to eat these types of food and drink, follow it with a glass of water to help clean out and restore the pH balance of your mouth.
- Avoid frequent snacking. Continually exposing your mouth to the sugars and acids that come with constant snacking can be too much for your saliva to keep up with. These “acid attacks” (the result of the bi-product of bacteria breaking down sugars for food) wear away at your enamel and after repeated exposures, can lead to holes, or cavities, developing in the teeth. The most harmful way to snack is to draw it out over a long period of time- such as sipping on a soda all afternoon or slowly munching on a bag of chips for several hours. Snack infrequently, quickly and choose less sugary foods.
- Chew a sugar free gum with xylitol. Chewing a sugar free gum is actually really healthy for your teeth. The act of chewing as well as the flavor of the gum stimulates saliva production. Saliva is your body’s natural defense for food debris and acid build up in your oral cavity. Even better is to chew a sugar-free brand that also contains xylitol. Xylitol has been shown to have a positive effect on your dental health and prevent tooth decay in several different ways.
Stick to these steps to keep your teeth healthy and prevent tooth decay from forming. Your mouth and your wallet will thank you! Got a favorite decay thwarting tip that we missed? We would love to hear from you in the comments section below.