Top 10 Ways to Help Prevent Cavities
Listed below are ten ways to help prevent cavities as well as additional information about what causes cavities to form in the first place.
Dentistry for the Entire Family’s Top Ten Ways for How to Prevent Cavities are:
- Brush teeth with fluoride toothpaste after eating or drinking
- Floss teeth daily
- Rinse your mouth daily with an antibacterial mouthrinse
- Drink tap water
- Maintain a healthy (low-sugar) diet
- Limit carbonated beverages to no more than twelve ounces daily
- Avoid frequent snacking and sipping beverages other than water between meals
- Chew chewing gum containing Xylitol after meals when you can’t brush
- Have your teeth examined by a dentist and professionally cleaned as recommended
- Consider having dental sealants applied to the chewing surfaces of permanent teeth
What causes cavities?
Cavities are caused by a combination of factors including:
- Ineffective brushing
- Not flossing daily
- Sipping acidic and/or sugar containing beverages throughout the day
- Frequently snacking on candy or other high sugary snacks
How does a cavity form?
The mouth contains a myriad of bacteria, some good and some not so good.
Streptococcus mutans is the primary culprit. This bacteria thrives and feeds on any residual carbohydrates (sugars from food and beverages) left behind on the surfaces of our teeth, tongue, and gums.
Most often a cavity will start out as a small “hole” in the surface of a tooth.
Left undetected and/or untreated will cause the cavity in to grow in size and eventually will cause tooth pain.
Brushing & flossing daily helps prevent cavities
Effective tooth brushing and flossing daily will help minimize the presence of harmful dental plaque on the surfaces of your teeth, gums, and tongue.
Dental plaque is a harmful, bacterial film that’s produced by the body. Once formed, this bacteria attaches itself to the surfaces of our teeth, gums, and tongue.
Initially, dental plaque is loosely attached and can be easily removed during tooth brushing and flossing.
If plaque is not removed from teeth, not only will plaque irritate nearby gum tissue causing it to appear puffy, red, and bleed, plaque will impact the strength and integrity of teeth—increasing the likelihood for the development of a cavity.
Visible signs & symptoms of plaque accumulation may include:
- Bad breath
- Bleeding and/or sore gums
- Tooth sensitivity
Any missed plaque will eventually mineralize and harden into what is commonly referred to as hard tartar or dental calculus. Dental calculus can’t be removed by toothbrushing and/or flossing–it requires a visit to your dentist for a professional teeth cleaning.
How does using mouthrinse help prevent cavities?
Using an antibacterial mouthrinse daily (or at a few times per week) can help prevent cavities.
How to use mouthrinse
- Vigorously swish antibacterial mouthrinse for 30-60 seconds.
- Afterwards, spit rinse into sink.
Do not swallow mouthrinse.
Mouthrinses help to loosen and reduce the potency of missed dental plaque while tooth brushing and flossing.
Mouthrinses are not a replacement for brushing and flossing and even the best mouthrinse is not able to remove all missed plaque.
Mouthrinses simply help to reduce the potency of missed plaque and help to reduce the inflammatory response associated with plaque on teeth and gums.
Some formulations may also contain fluoride. Fluoride helps prevent cavities by strengthening weakened tooth enamel (the outermost layer of teeth).
Not all mouthrinses or mouthwash are effective. Only bottles whose label includes the word antibacterial have the ability to kill bacteria are effective.
Effective adult mouthrinses available over the counter include:
Effective kids mouthrinses available over the counter include:
Listerine Smart Rinse
Kids ACT rinse
Drinking municipal tap water helps prevent cavities
Municipal tap water contains fluoride, a naturally occuring earth mineral, that research has shown to help prevent cavities.
Municipal tap water contains one part per million of sodium fluoride. This amount can be safely swallowed by children and adults.
Bottled varieties of water may or may not contain fluoride. Read the label to know for sure.
Kids who have not shed all of their baby teeth will greatly benefit by drinking water containing fluoride. Fluoride helps to strengthen and harden developing tooth enamel (the outermost layer of a tooth). Fluoride rich tooth enamel helps prevent cavities.
Eating a diet low in sugar helps prevent cavities
Eating a diet low in sugar helps prevent cavities helps prevent the natural pH of the saliva in your mouth from dropping below 5.5.
Ph is a measurement that indicates how acidic a liquid is. Saliva inside your mouth typically ranges between 6.2-7.6 (Source).
Tooth enamel begins to demineralize (increasing the risk to develop cavities) when the pH in the mouth drops below 5.5.
Foods and beverages that contain sugar and or are acidic or sour will cause the pH in your mouth to drop. The longer the pH in the mouth remains below 5.5, the higher the risk of developing cavities increases.
Try to avoid frequent snacking and sipping beverages other than water between meals. Snacking and beverages between meals increase the number of times per day the pH inside your mouth drops to levels that increase your risk of developing a cavity.
Photo Source: National Oral Health Care
Limit carbonated beverages to no more than twelve ounces daily
Several studies have recommended for adults and children to limit carbonated beverages to no more than twelve ounces daily.
This includes soft drinks, juice boxes, and energy drinks.
Sugar-free or diet varieties are not necessarily “better”. Carbonated beverages are acidic. Even carbonated water has an average pH of around 4.0.
Pictured right is a chart showing how sugar and the corresponding pH of several popular carbonated beverages from the Minnesota Dental Association.
Chewing gum containing Xylitol helps prevent cavities when you can’t brush
When you can’t brush, chew on a piece of gum that contains Xylitol.
Xylitol is a natural sweetener derived from the fibrous parts of plants. It does not break down like sugar and can help keep a neutral pH level in the mouth (Source).
Chewing gum stimulates and increases the amount of saliva inside your mouth. Chewing gum with Xylitol also helps prevent plaque from food and beverages from sticking to the teeth and gums. This helps to minimize inflammation between brushing and flossing.
Have your teeth examined by a dentist and professionally cleaned as recommended
Cavities is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood in the United States (Source).
Approximately 18.6% of children aged 5-19 and 31.6% of adults aged 20-44 have untreated cavities.
By having your teeth examined by a dentist and professionally cleaned as recommended, your dentist can help you to prevent cavities from developing.
Periodically, your dentist will take digital x-rays to check for cavities between teeth. Frequency of x-rays is based upon you tooth decay risk factors.
A professional teeth cleaning helps prevent cavities by removing harmful irritants including stain, plaque, and hard tartar from teeth surfaces.
People with gum disease or underlying medical conditions that may increase your risk of cavities may be recommended to have their teeth professionally cleaned more frequently than every six months.
Your dentist may recommend the following people to visit their dentist more frequently
- Kids and adults with dental braces
- People diagnosed with gum disease
- People who are diabetic, are pregnant, or immunocompromised
Dental sealants applied to the chewing surfaces of permanent teeth help prevent cavities
Dental sealants applied to the chewing surfaces of permanent teeth help prevent cavities.
Dental sealant is a thin, tooth colored-white material that is applied to the deep pits and grooves on the surface of permanent back molar teeth to help prevent cavities.
A permanent set of teeth includes three sets of molars.
The first molars begin to grow in around six years old. The second set around twelve years old, and the third set, commonly referred to as wisdom teeth can begin to grow in as early as sixteen years old.
Typically, only the first and second sets of permanent molars are sealed. Many people have their third set of molars extracted due to lack of room. For this reason, third molars are rarely sealed.
Applying sealants is easy, requires no anesthetic, and each sealant takes only a couple of minutes to apply.
- The hygienist first applies a blue colored jelly to prepare the chewing surface of the permanent molar.
- The jelly is then rinsed and tooth is dried thoroughly.
- Once dried, sealant is applied and bonded to the tooth using a blue-colored light.
- Lastly, the hygienist will confirm the sealant has completely bonded to the tooth.
Need to schedule an appointment?
Dentistry for the Entire Family is accepting new patients. Call (763)586-9988 to schedule an appointment or request an appointment.