Many patients ask me, in frustration, how they can reduce their chances of cavities. Yes, having to visit the dentist often because of cavities is very frustrating! Let’s start by answering the following questions:
- Do you sip soft drinks or other sugary drinks (including coffee or tea with milk and sugar) all day at your desk?
- Do you use breath mints or eat candy often?
- Instead of eating meals, do you snack all day?
- Do you often grab a soda, sports or energy drink when you are tired?
- Do you miss your regular dental checkup and cleanings?
- Are you inconsistent with your brushing and flossing habits?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, you may be raising your risk of cavities. There are 4 main reasons for developing cavities:
- Genetics – we are born with certain bacteria in our mouths of which some are more prone to causing decay than others.
- Inconsistent oral hygiene habits – a regular routine of brushing twice a day and flossing daily will help keep those bacteria under control.
- Regular dental visits to check for cavities and to clean your teeth will pick up problems early. Your dentist uses these appointments to ensure that the fillings, crowns and restorations in your mouth are still holding up well. Your hygienist is key in helping you identify areas in your mouth that are collecting plaque more easily and guides you on how to remove it effectively. Very often we are not aware of what our problem areas are and need advice on how to get to these hard to reach places.
- A healthy diet keeps your mouth healthy.
PLAQUE is a sticky film of bacteria and food debris that forms on teeth. The bacteria create ACID from eating the sugars found in what you eat and drink. This acid attacks the enamel of your teeth and a cavity forms. Cavities do not go away on their own and must be treated by your dentist.
Lower your risk of cavities by:
- Avoid sugary drinks when possible – these include sports drinks, sodas, energy drinks, sweetened teas, fruit juices that have 100% juice.
- Limit snacks between meals – choose foods that are low in sugar and fat, like an apple or a handful of almonds. Try to drink water with it as this will help rinse bits of food in your mouth BUT this does not replace brushing and flossing.
- If you have sugary foods and drinks, try have them with meals. Saliva increases during meals which helps to dilute the acid and helps to rinse bits of food from your mouth.
- Chew sugarless gum that has Xylitol in it. Chewing gum after meals helps increase saliva and reduce cavities. Xylitol is also the sugar that cannot be utilized by bacteria.
- Drink water – it helps to rinse away bits of food; lubricates the mouth and in some areas, tap water has fluoride in it.
If you have any questions, your dentist will be able to guide you along your path to healthy living.
Dr. Charmaine Johnson
Premier Smile Center