Tooth decay may or may not cause pain and discomfort. But if you experience a toothache or tooth sensitivity, see gray, brown or black spots on your teeth or have bad breath or an unpleasant taste in your mouth for an extended period of time, it is a good idea to call your dentist for a checkup. Tooth decay occurs when acid – produced by plaque that builds up on our teeth – attacks the tooth and degrades the tooth. And plaque buildup not only causes cavities, it can also cause gum disease, dental abscesses and other issues.
So what can you do to avoid tooth decay and other oral health concerns?
Consider these tips:
Visit your dentist regularly
All adults should schedule regular dental checkups twice per year, even if there are no signs of tooth decay or other issues. Tooth decay is easier to address and treat when caught early, but regular check-ups are important for overall dental health and general wellness. Your dentist may advise a revised check-up schedule based on your health history, dental health and other factors.
Avoid sugary and starchy foods and drinks
Sugary and starchy foods can leave a damaging residue on teeth that leads to plaque, buildup and decay. Keeping your teeth clean and free of this buildup between meals will help ensure better oral health. Some medicines, cough drops, gum, drinks and other items may contain sugar, so check labels and seek sugar-free alternatives.
Practice good oral hygiene
Brush your teeth thoroughly, floss and use an interdental brush and mouthwash at least twice a day to ensure that your teeth are clean and free of decay causing residue. This will not only leave you with fresh breath, but will limit the opportunity for decay-causing plaque to form.
Use a fluoride toothpaste
Take a moment to double check the label on your toothpaste. Does it contain fluoride? Fluoride helps protect your teeth from acids that can cause tooth decay, and helps remineralize and protect your teeth after acid attacks your tooth enamel.
Consider an electric toothbrush
Research has shown that electric toothbrushes clean teeth better than traditional toothbrushes. Electric toothbrushes provide thorough yet gentle scrubbing action which protects from “brushing too hard,” something some people are guilty of when trying to clean their teeth well. Overaggressive brushing can actually damage teeth and gums and cause gum recession. The gentle yet thorough cleaning provided by an electric toothbrush is a better solution.
Avoid smoking and tobacco products
In addition to being bad for your body in other ways, tobacco interferes with saliva production. And saliva is one way that the mouth cleans and protects your teeth. Saliva neutralizes acids in the mouth that break down tooth enamel by washing away acid residue from eating. When acid attacks your tooth enamel, saliva repairs the tooth though a process called remineralization. Saliva also protects against gum disease and other oral infections.
Enjoy alcohol in moderation
Alcoholic beverages can also contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel, so it is best to enjoy in moderation. Brush your teeth well soon after enjoying, if possible.
Whether you have had countless root canals and fillings or only a few, ask your dental health care provider if sealants are right for you. Sealants help protect your teeth by providing a resin barrier that guards your teeth from the effects of acid and decay. This makes it tougher for bacteria to take hold in your mouth.
Take a careful look at your medications
Prescription medications usually come with a long list of side effects, and one you might not expect is possible tooth decay. Some medications can contain sugar or cause dry mouth and other issues that can affect your oral health. Read information accompanying your medications carefully and talk to your physician and dentist about any concerns.
See your dentist if you have dry mouth
As mentioned above, saliva plays an important role in protecting your mouth and teeth from decay and disease. If you have dry mouth, please speak to your dentist or oral care provider about solutions that may help prevent decay.
Dental decay can happen to anyone, even if you carefully follow all of the care tips listed above. But don’t let that deter you from scheduling an appointment with your dentist. Dental care providers are trained in making sure that your oral care procedures are as painless and anxiety-free as possible. Even if you need a filling or crown, there are tools available like DentalVibe to ensure that your treatment experience will be free of discomfort.
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