Learn how you can keep your smile healthy by preventing cavities
Cavities, also known as tooth decay or caries, area common dental finding. There are two main causes of cavities: poor dental hygiene and sugary diets.
Cavities can be incredibly painful, often leading to tooth decay and tooth loss if left untreated. Ensuring that you eat a balanced diet, embarking on a sound home oral care routine, and visiting the dentist regularly, are all crucial factors for both cavity prevention and excellent oral health.
What causes cavities?
Cavities form when the teeth are exposed to sugary foods on a regular basis. Sugars and carbohydrates collect on and around the teeth after eating. A sticky film called plaque forms on the tooth enamel. The oral bacteria within the plaque continually ingest sugar particles and emit acid. Initially, the acid attacks the tooth enamel, weakening it and leaving it vulnerable to tooth decay. If conditions are allowed to worsen, the acid begins to penetrate the tooth enamel and erodes the inner workings of the tooth.
How will I know if I have a cavity?
Large cavities can be excruciatingly painful, whereas tiny cavities may not be felt at all. Making matters even trickier, cavities sometimes form between the teeth, making them invisible to the naked eye. Dental X-rays and the dentist’s trained eyes help pinpoint even the tiniest of cavities so they can be treated before they worsen.
Some of the major symptoms of cavities include:
Hot and cold sensitivity that lingers
Pain for no apparent reason
Pain that wakes you from sleep
Sensitivity during chewing
A toothache that doesn't go away
If your are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to visit the dentist. Failure to do so will make the problem worse, leave you in pain, and could possibly jeopardize a tooth that could have been easily treated.
How can I prevent cavities at home?
Regular visits with the dentist are only part of the battle against cavities. Here are some helpful guidelines for cavity prevention:
Analyze the diet – Too many sugary or starchy snacks can expedite cavity formation. Replace sugary snacks like candy with natural foods where possible, and similarly replace soda with water.
Cut the snacks – Snacking too frequently can unnecessarily expose teeth to sugars. Save the sugar and starch for mealtimes, when you are producing more saliva, and drinking water. Make sure you consume enough water to cleanse the teeth.
- Avoid sugary sticky foods – Sticky foods form plaque quickly, and are more difficult to clean off the teeth. Avoid these types of foods if possible.
- Avoid snacks and drinks at bedtime – Eating a snack or drinking a sugary beverage right before bedtime is bad news. The carbohydrates from the snack and drink sit on the teeth all night – attacking enamel and maximizing the risk of cavities. Always remember to brush and floss your teeth after you last meal or snack before bedtime.
- Brush and floss – remember to brush and floss your teeth at least twice each day. At a minimum you should be prushing and flossing the teeth after breakfast and before bedtime.
Use a supplemental fluoride – A supplemental fluoride gel is prescribed when a patient suffers from dry mouth or has a high caries index. The supplemental fluoride can add an extra level of protection to prevent cavities.
Keep your dental appointments – The regular dental cleaning visit should be scheduled according to the dentists recommended recall interval. The recall interval is based on the condition of the teeth and gums and the level of good oral hygiene. Keeping your regular appointment is improtant to maintain your healthy smile!
If you have questions or concerns about cavity prevention, please consult with Dr. Bleeker.