No one wants to visit our office for a dental cleaning and leave with the news that they need to come back in a few weeks to have a cavity filled. Cavities occur when plaque and tartar form on the teeth and release acid that erodes your tooth enamel. With the tooth enamel weakened, bacteria from the tartar can infiltrate the tooth and cause decay. Once you have a cavity, there’s no way to reverse it; the only option is to remove the decay and put in a dental filling. That’s why preventing cavities before they start is the best course of action. Here’s how to do it:
Practice Good Oral Hygiene
Most patients believe they’re brushing and flossing properly, but if you’re not timing your tooth brushing, it’s very likely that you’re not hitting the full two minutes twice a day recommended by the American Dental Association. Use a timer on your phone, a kitchen timer, or purchase an electric toothbrush with a built-in timer to help ensure that you’re brushing long enough. If you divide your mouth into four quadrants (upper right, upper left, lower right, lower left), spend 30 seconds on each to ensure that your entire mouth is clean. Brush the fronts, backs, and chewing surfaces of all teeth and don’t stop until they feel smooth and clean—and always use an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste.
The next step in preventing cavities is flossing. It should be done once a day, between all of your teeth, down to the gumline. It’s best to floss at night so you can remove any food and plaque that has accumulated throughout the day before going to bed.
Finally, give your mouth a rinse with a mouthwash that includes fluoride. While this step is optional, it’s a good one to take if you’re prone to cavities.
Get Regular Dental Cleanings
Aside from home hygiene, regular visits to our office are one of the best things you can do to prevent cavities. By removing deposits of plaque and tartar, we’re preventing the enamel erosion that leads to tooth decay. Tartar is hardened plaque that can only be removed with professional tools, which is why it’s important to have a dental cleaning every six months. During our comprehensive dental exams, we can also spot small cavities and treat them before they become bigger.
Ask About Dental Sealants and Fluoride Treatments
While you’re at our office, ask us about receiving dental sealants and fluoride treatments. If you have a number of cavities or your teeth have pits and grooves that collect plaque, these treatments can help prevent future decay.
Dental sealants are a plastic coating applied to the teeth to fill in pits and grooves. Sealants are commonly used for children, but there are some circumstances in which we may recommend them for adults.
Fluoride treatments may come in the form of a rinse or varnish administered at our office or trays that you use at home to apply prescription fluoride. These treatments can strengthen the teeth so they’re less susceptible to cavities.