Everyone knows that dental hygiene is crucially important for a number of reasons, yet most of us fail to take adequate care of our teeth and end up developing cavities at some point in our life. Usually, if we floss our teeth regularly, brush a couple of times each day, and get regular cleanings at the dentist’s office, we can manage to keep our gums and teeth relatively healthy.
However, that is not always enough. Dietary factors such as the amount of sugar we consume can affect our risk for tooth decay. Raw fruits and even some vegetables, ironically, can also contribute to tooth decay because of the natural sugars contained in them.
What is a Cavity?
A cavity is a form of infection caused by bacteria living in the mouth which eats into the enamel. All of us have naturally occurring bacteria in our mouths. Bacteria can accumulate on the surface teeth, especially after we eat a meal. If not brushed or flossed off of your teeth, bacteria begins to create a sticky film known as plaque. This plaque can eventually harden and become difficult to remove so, it essential to remove it early by brushing and flossing and regular visits to your dentist for professional cleanings.
Why is Plaque a Problem?
Dental plaque slowly dissolves the surface enamel of your teeth, which results in tiny pits that develop into small cavities. These cavities will then turn into larger and deeper cavities, which can damage the structure of your tooth, even down to the root. The damage can eventually lead to very painful toothaches.
Who Is Most At Risk of Getting Cavities?
If you have a sweet tooth, you are more likely to be at risk of developing cavities. Foods that cling to your teeth, such as cake, cookies, candy, dried fruits, and even dairy products are more likely to cause tooth decay than other foods which contain less sugar or are less sticky. If you snack throughout the day or drink a lot of soda or fruit juice, you are more likely to develop cavities than those who snack less and consume fewer sweets.
Top 10 Ways to Prevent Cavities
- Avoid refined white sugar. Foods that are heavily sweetened with refined white sugar are more likely to lead to the formation of plaque on your teeth.
- Drink unsweetened black and green tea. These forms of tea can help reduce the buildup of plaque in your mouth and keep bacteria levels lower. Be sure to drink unsweetened tea, or at least teas not sweetened with sugar or corn syrup, as the sweeteners will defeat the purpose!
- Eat healthy food. Nuts, apples, and cheese can help break up the plaque that may have accumulated on your teeth. Foods that are high in fiber can also help your mouth produce more saliva, which helps coat the teeth and wash away bacteria.
- Chew sugar-free gum. Like the foods mentioned above, sugar-free gum helps your mouth create more saliva and also helps clean plaque and bacteria from the surface of your teeth and gums. This is also a convenient way to clean your mouth after a meal on the go.
- Brush your teeth in the morning. When you sleep, bacteria multiply in your mouth overnight. In order to cut down the number of these bacteria, it is important to brush in the morning to start the day with a clean mouth, which can reduce the buildup of plaque and bacteria throughout the day.
- Incorporate more Xylitol. Xylitol is a non-sugar based natural sweetener that can help to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth. It is often used in toothpaste for this reason. It can be used as a natural sugar-free sweetener, so foods that contain this ingredient will cause less plaque buildup than foods made with sugar.
- Consider Oil Pulling. Oil pulling is an ancient technique that can help clean the mouth of harmful bacteria. To do an oil pull, simply swish a spoonful of organic, high-quality sesame, sunflower, or coconut oil around in your mouth for about 15 to 20 minutes and then spit it out. In the case of coconut oil, be sure not to spit the oil into your sink, as oil can solidify when it cools and clog the drain. After swishing with oil, your mouth will feel cleaner and have less bacteria.
- Snack on organic Licorice. Some substances in licorice have been found to destroy the bacteria, which leads to tooth decay and gum disease. Licorice can also help to prevent the formation of oral infections. See, not all candy is bad for you!
- Use a straw. If you must drink carbonated drinks, drink them with a straw. As mentioned above, drinking sweetened (most) soda beverages is generally bad for your teeth due to the sugar content. However, even sparkling water or sugar-free sodas contain carbonated water which can weaken enamel over time due to its acidic properties. For these reasons, if you drink a carbonated drink of any kind, it is generally best to do so with a drinking straw rather than from the cup itself. This way the drink can bypass your teeth and do less damage.
- Rinse with Tea Tree (Melaleuca) Oil. This oil has powerful antibacterial properties but is very strong. To use it as a rinse, dilute a few drops in about 4 ounces of water and swish with it like you would with a regular mouthwash.
These suggestions can potentially save you a lot of money in dental repairs and prevent a few toothaches as well!