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Cavity Prevention Advice for Everyone

Although most of us think it’s okay to skip brushing and flossing occasionally, that’s not the case. Even an occasional lapse of your dental routine can start the cavity formation process and adversely impact your dental health. The presence of tooth decay and cavities can increase your risk of developing health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and dementia, among others. Learning the causes of cavities and how to prevent them is the first step in maintaining good oral and physical health.

When the bacteria in your mouth convert food particles into acid – which is the first step in your digestive process – the acid begins to attack the enamel on your teeth. When this isn’t removed through brushing and flossing, then a small hole forms. This is the first step in developing a cavity.

When a cavity is small, it can be treated with a filling. However, a large cavity may need a large filling, and if the cavity is very large, it may need a root canal and cap. Fillings, root canals, and dental caps can be prevented with a regimen of good oral hygiene.

What Are Good Tips for Preventing Cavities?

One of the most important tips for preventing cavities is not giving in to the urge to skip brushing and flossing. Although you won’t have your teeth fall out immediately, you can set the stage for bacteria to form and start attacking your tooth enamel and your gums. If you neglect your gums, you can develop periodontal disease and cavities, and if you have untreated periodontal disease, you’ll eventually lose your teeth.

The following tips can help you establish and maintain a program of good oral hygiene:

  1. Regular brushing and flossing: At a minimum, you should brush in the morning before eating and at bedtime, and floss just before you go to bed. Ideally, you should brush after each meal or snack, but that’s not always possible. If it isn’t, then be sure to rinse well with plain water.
  2. Use mouthwash daily: Use an antibacterial mouthwash at least once daily to eliminate any residual bacteria that brushing and flossing may have missed.
  3. Get regular dental checkups: Even if you brush and floss as directed, you need to have regular dental checkups. Twice yearly is optimal, but at least once annually. Your dentist can spot problem areas before they escalate and may help you improve your dental hygiene regimen.
  4. Use topical dental treatments: Topical dental treatments coat the enamel on the teeth, so the acid in your mouth can’t attack your tooth enamel. Ask your dentist about a topical treatment for your teeth.
  5. Eat healthy, tooth-friendly foods: Many foods like celery, cheese, and high-fiber fruits and vegetables are good for your teeth as well as your body. Other foods include black coffee and tea, sugar-free gum, and dairy.
  6. Drink tap water: Most municipalities fluoridate their water supply, which can help remineralize your teeth and promote saliva production. If you consistently have a dry mouth, the bacteria doesn’t get flushed out, so cavities can start to form. If you drink only bottled water, you may miss out on some essential minerals your teeth need. Adding some tap water to your bottled water can help you have healthier teeth.
  7. Get advice from your dentist: When you go to your dentist for your annual or semi-annual exam, ask their advice. Dentists spend years training for their profession and can provide you with insights that might not have occurred to you.

Bacteria can lurk in areas that you might not have thought of, but your dentist can point them out to you. Don’t hesitate to ask your dentist anything, even if you think your question is silly. Your dentist will be happy to provide information on maintaining your good oral health.

What Protocols Are Used to Treat Cavities?

Despite your good intentions, you may develop a cavity. If so, make a dental appointment without delay. Your dentist can provide you with viable options to restore functionality, but the sooner your cavity is treated, the better the outcome and the less invasive the treatment. Typical options for treating cavities include:

  • Fillings: For smaller cavities, your dentist can remove the decayed part of the tooth, clean and disinfect it, and then fill it. A variety of filling materials are available, and your dentist will discuss them with you and recommend the best type for your needs.
  • Crowns: If you have a larger cavity, then your dentist may be able to remove the decayed area and cover the tooth with a crown, which is also called a dental cap because it caps the entire tooth. This will restore function to the tooth and is a very common procedure.
  • Root Canal: If your tooth has decayed into the pulpy area of the tooth, then you may need a root canal. During a root canal, the nerve and tooth pulp are removed, the area is cleansed and disinfected, the root is sealed, and then the canal is filled with a rubbery substance called gutta-percha. A root canal is typically covered with a crown so that the tooth is functional once again.

The above treatments aren’t the only ones available for treating cavities. Ongoing research in dentistry has resulted in several innovative treatments for cavities. A fluorescent light can now be used to detect tooth decay before a cavity forms. Another innovative treatment is the use of fluoride near a decayed tooth so that adjacent teeth aren’t impacted. Lasers are also used in various dental treatments, so ask your dentist about your treatment options if you have a cavity.

The Very Best Option…

Despite all the advances in the field of dentistry, the best treatment for cavities is prevention. Using a program of good oral hygiene can help you prevent the onset of cavities and the necessity for other types of treatments. Eat a healthy diet that’s good for your body and your teeth, brush and floss according to the American Dental Association standards, and get regular dental checkups to ensure the best outcome for your teeth. By maintaining good oral health, your teeth may last for your lifetime without the need for dental prosthetics.

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