Cavities are practically a given today and no age or ethnic group seems to be immune. Cavities, or tooth decay, start when plaque forms on the teeth. Plaque is the sticky substance that forms on teeth and combines with the sugars and /or starches in the foods we eat. This combination produces acids that attack tooth enamel. If we don’t develop a sensible daily dental health plan, the result can be cavities. Left too long, you can be faced with loss of teeth, root canals and other problems.
Tooth decay is also the second most prevalent disease in the United States, with the common cold earning top honors. Fortunately, cavities can be easily prevented while a common cold has no cure – only comforting from a mother’s love, chicken soup and rest.
The mouth can be a busy place for bacteria – those tiny colonies of living organisms constantly moving on your teeth, gums, lips and tongue. Have no fear, bacteria in the mouth is a normal thing and while some bacteria can be harmful, most are not. Some are even helpful.
We do have to worry about the bacteria – the tiny organisms that attaches to hard surfaces in the mouth including the enamel covering your teeth. If it isn’t removed, the bacteria will multiply and grow in numbers until a colony forms. Once a colony forms, more bacteria of different types attach to the colony already on the tooth enamel. Proteins in saliva mix in and the bacteria colony becomes a whitish film on the tooth. This film is called plaque, and it's what causes cavities.
So how do we avoid plaque and the cavities it can cause? Here are seven simple steps to help avoid plaque.
Step One. Brush Your Teeth
In the fight against cavities, it is essential that you brush your teeth properly at least twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride. As part of your brushing regime, make sure you brush long enough, in the right direction, etc. Check with your dentist or dental hygienist for proper brushing instructions.
Step Two. Floss Daily
Food debris gets caught in between our teeth when we eat. If the debris is not removed, it can lead to cavities. Flossing everyday is the best way to remove food debris from in between the teeth. Some research points out that brushing and flossing can also lead to better heart health.
Step Three. Eat Healthy
Proper nutrition plays an important role in good dental health. Eating nutritional snacks and limiting the amount of sugary drinks will help to prevent plaque from forming on the teeth. Limit the amount of soda, artificial fruit juices and candy consumed. Good dental health can lead to overall good health.
Step Four. Visit Your Dentist
Many cavities can only be detected by a dentist or a dental X-ray. Visiting your dentist for regular check ups and cleanings are the only way to find cavities in the early states and prevent major oral issues such as tooth extractions, root canals, etc. Visiting your dentist regularly is part of an important dental health program.
Step Five. Have Sealants Placed
Dental sealants are a protective coating applied to the biting surfaces of the back teeth. These sealants protect the teeth from getting a cavity by shielding the surface against bacteria and plaque. Sealants are more common in children.
Step Six. Use a Mouth Rinse
There are several antimicrobial mouth rinses on the market clinically proven to reduce plaque. Ask your dentist what brand or type is best for your dental needs. Rinsing with one of these mouth rinses after brushing or eating can aid in cavity prevention.
Step Seven. Chew (Sugarless) Gum!
Growing up, a lot of us were told of the perils of chewing gum. But all that has changed with the advent of certain sugarless gums that actually help promote dental health. In fact, chewing certain sugarless gums can actually help prevent cavities by increasing the flow of saliva in your mouth. In 2007, the American Dental Association awarded their Seal of Acceptance to Wrigley's Orbit, Eclipse and Extra chewing gums for helping to prevent cavities.
As with any good health program, the earlier you start the better and that includes babies and toddlers. Tooth decay can start as early as a few months. I suggest a baby visit as early as six months. Remember, preventative care is important at any age.