Cavities are a fact of life for most adults today. Of the 95 percent of adults who retain all or some of their permanent teeth, 92 percent have experienced at least one bout with dental caries, or cavities.
And while the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) reports that the overall incidence of cavities is on the decline, clearly we have a long way to go.
In fact, as the UIC College of Dentistry points out, points out, cavities are the second most common health issue after – wait for it – the common cold.
Part of the reason cavities are still so common is because public education efforts can deliver confusing information. In this article, we break down seven incredibly easy ways you can prevent cavities for yourself and your family.
1. Brush with the right type of brush using the right method.
Stop any stranger on the street and ask them how to maintain healthy teeth and they will probably answer, “brush your teeth.”
What they won’t say – and may not know – is that brushing alone isn’t always enough. You need to brush the right way using the right type of brush.
According to the American Dental Association‘s Mouth Healthy program, you need to choose a toothbrush with soft bristles.
You also need to choose a soft-bristle toothbrush with the right brush size that conforms to the shape and size of your teeth.
And you need to make sure you replace your brush at least four times per year and more often if the bristles become frayed or damaged.
The ADA states that you should ensure you brush at least once per day using the following steps:
– Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums.
– Gently move the brush back and forth (don’t scrub).
– Start with the outer tooth surface, then move to the inner surface and then to the bottom surface of the teeth on the upper and lower jaw.
– Brush the tongue to remove bacteria and residue.
2. Boost your daily water intake.
According to Medical News Today, the body is about 60 percent water.
So it nearly goes without saying that consuming enough water every day is incredibly important for just about every health need your body has.
As if you didn’t already have enough reasons to drink more water, here is one more: adding more water to your daily beverage intake helps flush away residue from food and drink sugars that might otherwise remain and cause decay.
This means that even if you cave and go for that sugary soda or fancy coffee drink, you should drink some water afterwards to wash off the residue on your teeth, gums and tongue.
Most drinking water also contains trace amounts of fluoride, which can help to strengthen the natural enamel (the outer coating of your teeth that resists decay).
Water also helps your mouth produce more beneficial saliva, which also plays an active role in repelling tooth decay.
And when you increase your water intake, this can actually reduce your cravings for “bingeworthy” foods and drinks that contain more cavity-causing sugars.
3. Take up flossing.
Flossing is pretty much nobody’s idea of a good time. In fact, WebMD reports that most adults would prefer to clean their toilet than floss their teeth!
But the real question is, would you prefer to floss your teeth or go to the dentist and pay hundreds of dollars to get a cavity filled?
If you answered “no,” you are probably already starting to wonder where you put that packet of floss your dentist gave you at your last checkup.
While it is true there is some debate about just how important flossing is for good oral health overall, copious evidence still exists to link flossing with lower incidence of gum disease and tooth decay.
The culprit is trapped food and residue between the teeth. Flossing is really the only way to make sure these tiny bits don’t remain between your teeth and lead to decay.
Happily, as Healthline explains, a number of different types of flossers are available.
For example, if you absolutely hate waxed thread, you may find a lot to love in water flossers that shoot a thin jet of water between your teeth to remove trapped bits.
If water flossers aren’t your thing, keep in mind that there are many different types of floss to choose from. There are even special flossing products designed to make it easier to floss when you have braces and dental hardware.
4. Pay special attention to the teeth you can’t easily see.
As the respected Mayo Clinic highlights, it is harder to properly brush and floss the teeth you can’t see.
Those teeth way in the back of your mouth – the same ones that require you to brush at awkward angles and contort your fingers to floss – are also the ones that are more likely to develop dental caries.
So you want to give those far back teeth special attention and care when you brush and floss each day. Make sure to brush and floss all the way around the very back of your back teeth.
5. Consider applying dental sealants.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently recommends application of dental sealants for school-age children.
But adults can also get dental sealants. Sealants can be an especially good choice if you have a family history of periodontal disease or higher incidence of caries.
Typically sealants are used only on the back teeth (premolars and molars) as well as on any teeth with existing deep fissures or grooves. Sealants only work to prevent cavities – they are not a substitute for fillings.
Sealants are quick and painless. A thin coating is applied to the teeth to prevent bacteria from getting into the grooves and causing decay. Properly applied dental sealant can prevent up to 80 percent of cavities for up to two years.
6. Get regular dental cleanings and checkups.
For many adults, “no news is good news” is the order of the day when it comes to oral health maintenance.
But in reality, your best defense against cavities is to visit your dentist regularly for cleanings, X-rays and checkups.
New dental technology can detect emerging issues before a full-blown abscess, cavity or root canal develops. And having tartar and plaque removed can prevent decay from ever developing.
7. Adopt additional preventative measures to keep your teeth, gums and mouth healthy.
Even if you don’t want to take the extra step of having dental sealants applied, there is still a lot you can do between dental cleanings to maintain optimal oral health.
Your dentist may recommend a special anti-bacterial oral rinse you can use daily to reduce harmful bacteria growth in the mouth. You can use prescription fluoride treatments for an extra level of care.
Even chewing gum with xylitol can help clean your teeth when you are not able to get away to brush, floss or rinse your teeth and mouth.
As the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) points out, there is an epic battle taking place inside your mouth all day every day.
Whether the “healthy mouth” or the “more cavities” team wins will ultimately be up to you.
You can take sides by following the seven steps outlined in this article.
By brushing properly, flossing, drinking more water, having regular dental checkups, considering sealants and extra treatments and giving your back teeth special care, you can fight back against harmful bacteria and keep your teeth, mouth and gums healthy.