Dental caries is the most common issue that affects the oral health of children and adults. According to the American Dental Association and the Dental and Craniofacial Research, 1 in 4 Americans has at least one untreated cavity; this is a problem that affects people from all over the world and of all ages.
Cavities are also very common in school-age children and contrary to popular belief, cavities on baby teeth should receive proper treatment to avoid issues with permanent teeth.
There is a variety of reasons for cavities, starting from poor dental hygiene, the excessive ingestion of certain foods and drinks, especially those that contain high levels of sugar, and even certain genetic factors that increase the probability of tooth decay.
Why is it important to treat cavities?
Cavities can be a minor issue at first, but if left unchecked they can be quite painful and even end up in tooth loss; a cavity is the result of a tooth decay process that wasn’t taken care of in time.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent tooth decay, and the process could be reversed if you make the right changes to your diet and your health habits.
What produces tooth decay and cavities?
Our mouth is home to thousands of bacteria, some of them are quite harmless, but others can be extremely harmful to your teeth. Harmful bacteria accumulation, called dental plaque, is responsible for tooth decay since it debilitates the teeth’s hard surface, creating small conducts that can reach the dentin layer and even the tooth’s pulp and nerves.
Can diet affect your oral health?
When you eat sugar or starchy foods, bacteria devour it and produce acids, and combined with other bacteria, food debris, and saliva, it forms plaque, which you can see as a film that covers your teeth. The acids in plaque remove minerals from the tooth enamel and it slowly causes severe damage to the teeth.
When plaque buildup is not cleaned properly, it solidifies turning into calculus or tartar. Tartar accumulates in the gum line and between the teeth, causing faster damage to the enamel.
Can we prevent tooth decay?
At the same time, saliva and fluoride act as counteragents, forming a protective coat that prevents tooth erosion. When you eat too much sugar, the excessive amount of acid overcomes your natural protection and tooth decay happens. At this point you might notice white spots on your teeth, those are signs of early decay.
This is why the number one cavity prevention method is having a good oral hygiene routine. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day, and visit your dentist regularly to get a professional cleaning.
Risk factors for tooth decay
There are conditions and habits that can increase your chances of suffering tooth decay. These risk factors will aggravate cavities or start forming them.
Sugary and starchy foods
Diet is the main cause of tooth decay. Sugar, when is in touch with saliva, it becomes acidic, which is the reason why the enamel wears off and cavities form. Foods like soda and other sugary drinks, candy, processed foods, and starchy foods are high in sugar, so it is not recommended to have a diet based on those or do frequent snacking.
Choose to fill your diet with healthy and organic foods, like fruits and vegetables. You can still eat sugars but in moderation, and make sure afterward to drink water to wash off the rest of the bacteria and acids. An extra tip is to drink fluoride water so it can maintain your enamel, but be aware of bottled water since most of them don’t contain enough flour. If you drink only bottled water, consult with your dentist regularly.
A dry mouth can be caused by a medical condition or medicine. However, the lack of saliva causes cavities and tooth decay. Saliva is a natural wash, and when it isn’t present, bacteria have the perfect environment to grow. Drinking water in this situation is more important than ever, as also regular checkups with the dentist.
Bad oral health and hygiene
Not having a good cleaning routine can be causing tooth decay. It is important to remember brushing with fluoride-containing toothpaste after each meal, flossing at least once a day, and use mouthwash. It is essential to clean between your teeth and to do this you could floss or use an interdental brush, which will help you to also clean your gums properly.
Along with your cleaning routine, it is also important to visit your dentist regularly for deep cleanings. A dentist has the tools to reach areas that are almost impossible for us. Visit your doctor at least twice a year for a cleaning.
Tooth decay is more common in back teeth or molars than in front teeth because it can be harder to clean them. If you see any signs of tooth decay in its earliest stages don’t worry, you can still reverse it by reinforcing your enamel with some of the tips that we will mention below.
How can you prevent or stop the tooth decay process?
There are many ways to do cavity prevention, especially taking good care of your oral health, but once the cavity has started to form, there’s not much you can do to actually stop the process.
Cavities are tiny holes in the tooth enamel and it can be hard to see them
With time the hole will get bigger and it can start to show some symptoms like visible pits or turning into a darker color, toothache, sensitivity, severe pain, and more.
What you should do to stop the decay process is to visit your dentist and receive proper treatment. If caught in the early stages, fixing a cavity is a very simple procedure that may not even need anesthesia. When cavities reach advanced stages, root canals could be needed to prevent the extraction of the affected tooth.
Even when you can’t stop a cavity from growing without visiting the dentist, there are methods to slow down the decay process and help prevent cavities on healthy teeth. Here is how to prevent cavities:
Don’t miss your regular dental checkups
The most important advice to prevent cavities and take care of your oral health is to visit your dentist regularly. It is recommended to visit the dentist at least two times per year in order to prevent dental problems or catch them in the early stages when is easier to treat them.
A dental checkup involves in-depth cleansing, as well as a thorough examination that might reveal some hidden signs of tooth decay. Additionally, the dentist might apply some supplemental fluoride gel or varnish (as necessary), and help you avoid cavities if you are in a risk factor group by coaching you on dental hygiene or changes in your diet.
Brush your teeth and floss every day
As we already know, bacteria and food particles form plaque, and over time, the plaque causes cavities. Brushing your teeth after every meal removes the plaque and prevents the upgrowth of harmful bacteria. This is the most important advice to prevent tooth decay.
When you brush your teeth, pay special attention to your back teeth since a lot of food debris and plaque accumulate in that area. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and don’t forget to brush your tongue and cheeks.
You should also clean between your teeth using dental floss or an interdental cleaner. flossing regularly will keep your teeth clean and your gums healthy.
If you are prone to cavities, you should try to brush with fluoride-containing toothpaste at least twice a day. Fluoride toothpaste will make your teeth’s enamel stronger and prevent caries.
You can also find mouth rinses with fluoride that you can use in your oral health routine. Remember to choose dentistry products that have been approved by the American Dental Association.
Reduce the sugar intake
When we eat or drink sugar, the bacteria in our mouth transform it into acids, and that is the number one enemy of enamel. Only by reducing the sugars in our diet, we can prevent tooth decay and also take care of our overall health.
Whenever possible, avoid drinking sugary drinks and acidic drinks, replace them with bottled water. Choose cereals without sugar, healthy snacks, and sugar-free gum over hard candy. After eating any sugary snacks, remember to brush your teeth.
Whenever possible switch sugar, syrup, and other sources of glucose with artificial sweeteners, and if you are willing to change your diet a little, you can get the same wonderful taste with some fruit.
Use Xylitol chewing gum
If you like chewing gum, keep some xylitol gum around. Studies have shown that people who chew xylitol gum after a meal tend to show lesser tooth decay than people who didn’t use it. Xylitol contains a good amount of natural alcohol that helps prevent cavities and tooth loss, as well as treat infections.
It also stimulates saliva flow which protects the teeth from bacteria and particles that form plaque.
Fluoride treatments or dental sealants
Getting enough fluoride is great for your oral health since it prevents tooth decay by enforcing the enamel. You can get it by using fluoride-containing toothpaste. Aside from the previous, you can also get it by drinking fluoridated water, taking some fluoride tablets (usually recommended by the dentist), or using a fluoride mouth rinse.
Getting some fluoride exponentially lowers the odds of experiencing tooth decay. You can consult your dentist about getting a fluoride treatment.