Most of us know what cavities are – annoying little holes that form in our tooth enamel and often lead to nasty problems. At the Colorado Dental Arts, we comprehend how shocking it is to realize you have a cavity. But this leads us to two very important questions:
- What creates cavities?
- How do I eradicate cavities?
What Causes Tooth Decay?
Cavities (called caries by our Littleton dentists) form when acid destroys a tooth’s protective outer layer (enamel) and reaches its underlying layer (dentin). That acid comes either directly from different kinds of foods and beverages, or from different kinds of bacteria. Before caries actually become visible, you might feel experience the following symptoms:
- Sensitivity to cold, hot or sweet foods or beverages;
- Pain while eating.
When not repaired promptly, cavity-causing bacteria head farther into the tooth, leading to more complex difficulties and eventually pulling the tooth. So how can you stop cavities from developing in the first place? Here are a few basic tips.
1. Floss and Brush Each Day
You’ve learned it before: “A good routine of flossing and brushing is your primary defense against tooth decay.” That’s because flossing and brushing gets rid of bacterial biofilm – a sticky biofilm that houses the harmful bacteria making tooth-destroying acid. Best practice is to brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day. Additionally, be sure to employ toothpaste with fluoride. This mineral revitalizes your tooth enamel and can actually repair tiny cavities as they begin to develop. If a busy schedule or other factors make consistent flossing and brushing a challenge, bring a small toothbrush and floss container with you to help keep you in the habit.
2. Watch Your Diet
Pop, sports drinks and energy drinks are your tooth’s dire enemies. They contain the very acids that attack tooth enamel and make your enamel prone to decay. Even many fruit beverages are very acidic. Drink water and avoid these types of beverages. And remember, if you do drink acidic beverages, wait at least thirty minutes before brushing. You might also rinse thoroughly with plain water. Otherwise, you risk wearing away some of the enamel weakened by acid.
Sugary and starchy snacks, such as sweets and potato chips, are also a problem. Dental bacteria simply thrive in the carbohydrate-rich environment created by these snacks in your mouth. If you’re craving sweets, healthy snacks (like fruit and vegetables) are a terrific substitute.
If you can’t avoid eating sweets or desserts, make sure to clean your teeth afterwards to remove as much of the sugar and food from your tooth enamel as possible. If you do not have a toothbrush, at least rinse your mouth out with plain water or mouthwash.
Another idea: use sugar-free gum. Gum helps your mouth to produce more saliva, which assists in removing sugar (and acid) from the teeth.
3. Regularly Scheduled Dentist Visits
When you visit our Littleton dentists for regular professional oral exams and cleanings, your Littleton dental hygienist cleans areas of your teeth that you simply can’t reach through normal flossing and brushing. We investigate for advance indicators of tooth decay and address any difficulties. We also suggest additional treatments to prevent cavities if your circumstance calls for it, including dental sealants, in-office fluoride treatments, or special mouthrinses.
So when was your last dental cleaning? Contact us today and let’s make sure your mouth and teeth are in the best shape possible! The Colorado Dental Arts is reached at (303) 872-9436, in our office on 9102 W. Ken Caryl Avenue, or via our website’s handy appointment page.
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