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How to Avoid Cavities

You have to take care of your teeth if you want to prevent cavities. This includes a good oral hygiene routine to remove plaque from your teeth. Plaque is the sticky film that grows on your teeth after you eat or drink. The bacteria in plaque feeds on sugars and turns them into an acid that causes tooth decay.

Tooth decay is an extremely common disease that causes cavities by damaging teeth. Decay starts attacking the hard enamel on the outside of the tooth. Without treatment for the cavity that develops, the decay can spread to the dentin, the middle layer, and then eventually to the pulp inside the tooth.

Cavity Prevention Tips

There are many things you can do to reduce your risk of developing cavities significantly, including:

1. Have a Twice-Yearly Dental Exam

Even if your teeth feel and look fine, you should still have a routine exam twice a year. When cavities are just starting, you can’t see or feel them. If you wait to see a dentist until your tooth hurts, you’ll have a larger cavity that needs a more extensive filling and a crown. If you ignore minor tooth pain, the decay could reach the pulp inside your tooth, causing you severe pain. Your dentist may need to treat the tooth with a root canal. You can avoid the extra time and expensive by giving your dentist the chance to catch cavities while they are small and easy to treat.

2. Brush at Least Twice a Day

Brush with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day for two minutes at a time. Brush gently with a soft bristle toothbrush, cleaning all tooth surfaces. It’s better to brush more often, but if it’s impossible to brush after lunch or a sugary snack, rinse your mouth with water.

3. Floss Every Day

If you don’t floss every day, you are not cleaning 30 percent of the surface of your teeth. Seven out of 10 adults in this country don’t floss every day, perhaps because it’s too difficult or takes too much time. If so, ask your dentist about the many options you can choose from besides traditional string dental floss.

4. Ask About Fluoride Treatments

Fluoride helps prevent cavities by strengthening teeth. When you get a fluoride treatment at the dentist’s office, you get safe, highly concentrated varnish or foam applied to your teeth. It only takes a couple of minutes for your dentist to apply the fluoride and it will fully absorb in about a half an hour.

5. See Your Dentist for Routine Exams as Recommended

During a routine exam every six months, your dentist can check for small cavities that may not be causing you any symptoms. It’s better to take care of them while they are small and treatment is less invasive. If you don’t have any cavities, your dentist can still verify your oral care routine is removing plaque and reducing your risk for developing any cavities. If you have risk factors that may make it more likely you’ll develop cavities, your dentist can recommend treatments, like sealants or fluoride applications, that can help lower your risk.

6. Eat Food That Strengthen Tooth Enamel

Certain foods and drinks have nutrients that can strengthen your teeth. Some can also reduce the unhealthy bacteria that create acids that can damage tooth enamel. Foods and drinks that are good for your teeth include:

  • Green and black tea without sugar
  • Fluoridated tap or bottled water
  • Hard cheeses and other low-fat dairy products
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Fibrous vegetables
  • Apples and pears which can naturally clean teeth

Foods to avoid include:

  • Candy, especially sticky candy like caramel
  • Soda, even sugar-free versions
  • Energy drinks
  • Coffee and alcohol as these dry out the mouth
  • Snacks with starch, like potato chips
  • Dried fruit with added sugar

Treatments for Cavities

Your dental practitioner will recommend the most appropriate treatment based on the extent of the decay present. Don’t worry, the tooth will be numb and you won’t feel any pain.

Dental Fillings

It’s imperative your dentist removes the decay from the cavity before filling it. You don’t want the decay to spread further into your tooth and do more damage. The filling restores your tooth so you can use to chew again and any pain or sensitivity stops. There are several filling materials available which your dentist will go over with you. They vary in cost, durability, and appearance.


A dental crown is a cap for a tooth weakened by a large filling. Without a crown, the tooth would eventually crack or break. Your dentist will custom design a crown for your tooth so it matches your existing teeth in size and shape. When choosing the material for a crown, you and your dentist will consider the tooth’s location, its function and your budget. Porcelain crowns are the gold standard, but usually only suitable for front teeth. Consider a porcelain crown with a metal base or a metal crown to restore a molar, which is under a great deal of pressure when you chew.

Root Canal Therapy

A dentist will suggest root canal therapy when the decay from a large cavity reaches the innermost layer of your tooth, the pulp. The only way to save the tooth is to remove the pulp and then fill the tooth. Teeth that have undergone root canal therapy need a crown to restore them to their original functionality.

While fillings are usually not painful procedures, researchers are always looking at new ways to treat cavities to encourage more people to see a dentist every six months. Some people hesitate to see a dentist when they have a small cavity because they don’t like the drill. The latest research involves using an electrical current to shrink and close cavities with no drilling.

While there are many types of research into treating cavities, but prevention is always best. Cavities are not inevitable; almost all of them can be prevented with the above methods.

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(703) 997-0928