About one in four young children, half of grade-schoolers, and two in three adolescents in the United States have had at least one cavity. Even worse, nearly all American adults (90%) have had a cavity, and about one in four men and women are living with untreated dental decay.
But, as our expert dental team at Vida Dental Spa knows, it doesn’t have to be this way: As common as cavities are, they’re also preventable with the correct oral care. Dr. Maria-Teresa Ioannou explains how cavities form and how to avoid getting them.
It’s vital to avoid cavities and understand how they form — it starts with how the bacteria in your mouth interact with the starches and sugars in your diet.
Bacteria are a normal part of your oral ecosystem. When these microorganisms encounter sugary foods or fluids, they quickly feed on them. Unless you clear away these sugary particles quickly, the feasting bacteria forms a tacky, invisible coating on your teeth called dental plaque.
When you eat and drink, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that can damage both your tooth enamel and gum tissue. Known as a plaque attack, this “acid wash” removes minerals in your tooth’s hard, outer protective layer, causing erosion and tiny holes in your enamel — or the first stage of a cavity.
Untreated dental decay is problematic for oral health because it sets the stage for gum disease, worsening infection and pain, and ultimately, tooth loss. Fortunately, cavities and their many complications are preventable with six habits:
Incomplete plaque removal is the starting point for many common oral health issues, ranging from tooth discoloration and bad breath to cavities and early-stage gum disease. Plaque begins forming within minutes of eating or drinking starches or sugars and continues until you clean it away.
Brushing your teeth thoroughly at least twice daily — once in the morning and again before you go to bed at night — is your first line of defense against cavities. It takes about two minutes to brush, cleaning all sides of each tooth, gums, and tongue.
It’s also imperative to floss at least once daily to clear plaque from the tight spaces between your teeth, where your brush can’t reach. Daily flossing helps remove plaque from your gum line, where lingering plaque and bacteria set the stage for gingivitis or early-stage gum disease.
If you only floss once daily, we recommend doing so when you brush at night. You can take your oral hygiene habits to the next level by brushing and flossing after your mid-day meal.
It’s important to clean your teeth with a non-abrasive, fluoride-containing toothpaste for optimal plaque clearing and cavity prevention. Fluoride — nature’s cavity fighter — is a mineral that fortifies and protects your enamel to keep your teeth healthy. We also recommend swishing with a fluoridated mouthwash after you brush.
Fluoride can even stop a tiny, emerging cavity — it’s that powerful. That’s why local municipalities across the US have added the mineral to tap water for decades.
Sweet beverages coat your oral tissues with the sugar molecules that plaque-generating bacteria feed on. The residue from sugary sodas and drinks stays in your saliva for a long time, which makes it harder to wash away.
The worst drink for your teeth is a sweet, acidic beverage, such as cola or a sugary coffee. By simultaneously exposing your enamel to acid and sugar, these drinks drastically boost your cavity risk. If you drink these types of beverages, always swish with water afterward.
Eating smaller, more frequent meals may be a weight management strategy, but it’s not great for your teeth. Why? The more often you eat, the more plaque attacks your teeth. Limiting between-meal snacking reduces plaque attacks and gives your enamel more time to make minor repairs using minerals in your saliva (i.e., phosphate, calcium) or fluoride from tap water or toothpaste.
When you see our team every six months for a professional dental cleaning and exam, we clear all the plaque from your teeth — including any plaque calcified into bacteria-shielding tartar. We also use dental X-rays to check for hidden decay, repair minor surface cavities before they have a chance to get bigger and offer brushing and flossing tips to help your oral hygiene.
Ready to schedule your next teeth cleaning and exam? We’re here to help you prevent cavities and maintain optimal oral health. Call or click online to book an appointment at Vida Dental Spa in Whitestone, New York, today.