As of 2016, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that over 90% of American adults have had a cavity and one in every four adults currently has an untreated cavity, making dental cavities one of the most common chronic health problems. Despite the prevalence at which cavities occur, they are completely preventable.
General dentists are responsible for helping their patients maintain their oral health, however it is the patient’s responsibility to attend regular appointments and follow the instructions provided by their dentist. To prevent dental cavities, a dental exam and cleaning should be scheduled once every six months. Additionally between appointments, here are the top five ways to prevent cavities:
Daily Oral Hygiene
The first step to preventing cavities is to establish a daily oral hygiene routine consisting of brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. Daily brushing and flossing remove the food particles and plaque that cavity-causing bacteria feed on. Brushing your teeth cleans 60% of their total surface, while flossing cleans the remaining 40%. For this reason, it is essential to do both every day.
Use the Proper Tools
Another way to prevent cavities is to ensure that you are using the right tools for your daily dental routine. For starters, your toothbrush should have soft bristles and be long enough to easily reach the back of your mouth. Using a toothbrush with bristles that are too hard will not clean your teeth better, rather it will cause your gums to recede and your enamel to wear faster. Once you have selected the right toothbrush, be sure to replace this toothbrush every 3-4 months or after an illness. The other important tool for cavity prevention is toothpaste that contains fluoride. To make it easier to find the right supplies, look for the American Dental Association seal of approval.
If you read our article on “The Top 5 Things That Cause Cavities”, you know that sugar is the primary food source of cavity-causing bacteria. As such, decreasing your sugar intake will also decrease your risk of developing cavities. Additionally, decreasing your sugar intake and eating healthier has benefits to your overall health as well and has been shown to make you feel better overall.
Avoid Damaging Behaviors
Cracked, chipped, worn, or otherwise damaged teeth are at an increased risk for developing cavities. Behaviors such as nail biting, pen chewing, using your teeth as an opener, biting into hard foods, or chewing on ice can all cause your teeth to become damaged and should be avoided. Additionally, to prevent damage from dental emergencies, be sure to wear the proper protective dental equipment, such as a sports mouth guard, when participating in certain activities.
Use Your Dental Appliances
Following your dentist’s instructions on wearing prescribed dental appliances is another important way to prevent cavities. Two common prescribed appliances are mouth guards and retainers. Mouth guards prevent cavities by preventing damage caused by teeth grinding and clenching. Retainers are used after orthodontic treatment to maintain the position of your teeth. By keeping your teeth straight, retainers make them easier to clean and reduce the risk of cavities.
Daily oral hygiene, using the proper tools, eating right, avoiding damaging behaviors, and using your dental appliances are the five top ways to prevent cavities. Each one of these methods addresses one of “The Top 5 Things That Cause Cavities” in order to decrease your risk of developing dental cavities. Even if these methods don’t entirely prevent cavities, practicing these five methods in addition to regular preventative appointments with your general dentist will decrease the severity of possible future cavities.
Dr. Stephen Malone received his Doctorate of Dental Medicine Degree from the University of Louisville in 1994 and has practiced dentistry in Knoxville for over 20 years. He believes in the value of continuing dental education and has pursued hands-on and mentored advanced dental education every year since earning his doctorate. He participates in multiple dental study clubs and professional organizations, where he has taken a leadership role.