Do your teeth attract cavities like a light attracts bugs? Are you doing everything by the book—brushing and flossing daily, for instance—but still hearing the ugly word “cavity” every time you visit the dentist?
While many cavities are seemingly unexplained, some people may be more at risk for cavities than others. This includes those with a sweet tooth, those who snack throughout the day, regular soda drinkers, and people who suffer from dry mouth, heartburn, or eating disorders.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to reduce your cavity risk and get one step closer to walking out of the dentist office with a smile.
Say No to Sugar
While sugar doesn’t turn into cavities (a common misconception), sugar does indirectly cause cavities. This is because the bacteria inherent in sugar and refined carbohydrates (think white rice, white bread, and crackers) produce acid that removes protective minerals from your teeth, making them more cavity-prone.
Chomp on Gum
Surprised at the suggestion? While sugary gum does indeed cause problems in your mouth, sugar-free gum actually stimulates saliva production, which cleanses food particles on your teeth that lead to cavities.
Sip with a Straw
You probably know that drinking soda is one of the worst things you can do to your teeth. Since you’re probably not planning on giving it up completely, when you do drink soda, drink it with a straw. This keeps the acid from washing over your teeth when you drink. This goes for sparkling water and sports drinks, too.
Wash It Out with Water
Water is the answer to so many health issues, and dental health is no exception. Water cleans bacteria, supports saliva production, and prevents you from drinking less healthy choices.
Fix It with Fiber
Like water and sugar-free gum, foods high in fiber increase saliva production and provide an extra protective shield for your teeth. Foods high in fiber include:
- Fruits: apples, bananas, raspberries
- Grains: bran, barley, brown rice, whole-wheat bread
- Legumes: split peas, beans, almonds
- Vegetables: artichokes, green peas, broccoli, corn
Choose Fruits and Veggies
An apple a day keeps the dentist away! In addition to being high in fiber, many vegetables, as well as firm or crunchy fruits like apples and pears, also have a high water content, which protects against tooth decay.
Know Your Nutrients
Proper nutrition is important in every aspect of health, and getting the right vitamins from foods or supplements also gives your teeth an extra power pack of protection. Here are some of the best vitamins for your teeth:
- A: found in fruits, vegetables, eggs, whole milk, and butter
- D: obtained through exposure to sunlight
- E: found in vegetable oils, meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and poultry
- K: found in leafy green vegetables, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts
Brush before Breakfast
Did you know that bacteria builds up in your mouth overnight? Brushing right after you wake up is a good practice for reducing plaque.
Refine Your Technique
Sure, you brush, but are you hitting all the right spots? Try these tips:
- Brush for a full two minutes
- Don’t forget the gum line, back teeth, and areas around fillings and crowns
- Use a soft-bristled brush or powered toothbrush
- Replace your toothbrush every three months, when it shows signs of wear, or after you have a cold (the bristles collect germs)
Acidic foods can weaken enamel (your teeth’s protective coating), making it easier for bacteria to sneak in and cavities to develop. When you do eat acidic foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and lemons, eat them with other foods to minimize acid buildup.
Mind the Gaps
Are you flossing in all your gaps? Some of the gaps between teeth may be small and difficult to reach. Make sure to curve the floss around the base of each tooth as you slide it between each gap in a back-and-forth motion.
To enhance your flossing experience, try water flossers, which use water pressure to remove food particles. Water flossers are generally better than traditional floss at removing biofilm, an extremely tough layer of bacteria on your teeth.
Set a Prevention Pattern
Don’t forget the basics of dental care, which includes brushing at least twice daily, flossing daily, and visiting your dentist every 6 months.
Going to the dentist for a preventative checkup not only gives your dentist a chance to check for any problems, but it also provides a dental cleaning, which removes the hardened plaque that brushing won’t. Dental hygienists use dental instruments to remove tartar from your teeth and polish your teeth with fluoride to remove plaque and stains. This is an incredibly important process in strengthening your teeth and preventing cavities.
Following these tips doesn’t guarantee that you’ll never get another cavity. But it does increase your chance of walking out of the dentist’s office with that beautiful phrase ringing in your ears: “No cavities!” Use these tips to prevent further cavities today!