You only get two sets of teeth, and if you’re reading this you’ve probably already burned through one of them. But never fear! Cavities and tooth decay used to be considered an inevitable part of aging, but now it is possible to keep a lifelong, natural smile. There are some obvious measures you can take to prevent cavities and some surprising food items that can offer prevention too. Here are eight ways to prevent cavities.
8) Brush and floss regularly
This is the obvious piece of advice. There is no single factor in oral hygiene more important than the maintenance you do at home. Brushing and flossing are important not just because they clean your teeth, but the toothpaste delivers fluoride to your enamel, strengthening it and preventing cavities from being able to form. Most cities add fluoride to the water supply and that has helped fight cavities in the general population, but the amount of fluoride in a single dab of toothpaste outdoes an entire day’s worth of drinking water. You should be brushing at least twice a day.
7) Get regular cleanings
In addition to the cleaning you do at home, you should go in for a professional cleaning twice a year. The tools your hygienist uses can reach all the places your home tools can’t, and they are sharp and sophisticated enough to remove months of plaque and tartar buildup. Your hygienist can also give you fluoride and whitening treatments that you couldn’t get for home use.
6) Do not forget your checkups
Every time you go in for a cleaning it’s a good idea to get a checkup too. Your dentist is trained to discover the beginnings of tooth decay before you even start to feel it. By the time you get a toothache it’s often too late and a drilling and filling is required, but if caught early, your dentist may be able to solve any budding problems with a simple coat of sealant. This is applied via a non-invasive procedure that requires no anesthetic or freezing and is completely pain-free. Regular dental checkups can help prevent more than just cavities. They are also great for detecting gum disease, alignment problems, and staining.
5) Get adequate calcium
Your teeth are made of it, so it makes sense to build them up by getting enough calcium. The most well-known source of calcium is milk and dairy products, but calcium is an abundant mineral that can be found in all kinds of foods, including plants. Think about it, a cow’s diet consists mainly of grass and all that calcium has to come from somewhere. Non-dairy sources of calcium include broccoli, spinach, almonds, kale, beans, whole grains, and raisins. And grass, but don’t eat that.
4) Know your bacteria
You know that bacteria in your mouth cause the tooth decay that leads to cavities. Bacteria feed on the sugars left inside your mouth after a meal and expel waste products in the form of acids that can stain and weaken enamel and lead to decay. There are good bacteria living in your mouth as well, and keeping them healthy can actually help stop the ones that cause decay. These probiotic oral bacteria (also known as “oral flora”) help maintain a stable, healthy ph balance. Having a balanced mouth ph can help neutralize the acids expelled by bad the bacteria. Keep your probiotic bacteria populations healthy in your mouth and all over the rest of your body by eating probiotic foods like cultured dairy and pickled vegetables. This is especially important in your mouth because every time you brush away the bad bacteria, the good ones go along for the ride, so it is important to replenish them.
3) Eat vegetables that are rich in fibre
You are born with a built in cavity fighter: saliva. Like the probiotic bacteria it houses, saliva in your mouth neutralizes acids while it washes away larger food particles. Fibrous vegetables stimulate saliva production, making them the perfect cavity fighting food. Citrus fruits, cheese, and bitter tasting foods like endive are all good saliva inducers too. So is hard candy, but since the sugar in it would cancel out the positive effects of the extra saliva it produces, it’s better to stick to vegetables.
2) Quit smoking
Or at the very least, stick the cigarettes up your nose and smoke them that way. Remember those bad oral bacteria? Well they don’t just produce acid when they eat sugar. When cigarette smoke enters your mouth it creates a toxic environment that causes dry mouth, killing both the good and bad bacteria and throwing off your ph balance. When the bad bacteria die, they expel more cavity-causing acid. Now that we’ve added cavities to the list of cigarette follies, is there any reason to keep smoking anymore? I’m pretty sure the last of the four out of five doctors who recommended Camels in the 1950s died this year. Of cancer.
1) Xylitol, anyone?
No, it’s not the name of a race of toothless aliens that has come to Earth to steal all our pearly whites and take them back to the home planet, it’s a sweetener. Xylitol is commonly found in sugar-free chewing gum. Not only does it replace sugar, thus saving your teeth from all the decay sugar causes, xylitol actually helps to remineralize enamel and prevent cavities.
Denture and dental implant technology is currently making leaps and bounds, but that doesn’t mean you have to rush to lose all your teeth. Take good care of your chompers by keeping these tips in mind and you may even keep them forever.