Tooth decay—also known as dental caries—is caused by the activity of bacteria around the teeth and gums. These oral bacteria feed on food particles and metabolize them into acids that attack tooth enamel, eventually cause tooth decay and cavities. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to keep the bacteria at bay, and prevent tooth decay. Good oral hygiene can even help repair the early signs of tooth decay.
Stay Consistent with Oral Hygiene
The number one most important thing you can do to protect your teeth from decay is to brush and floss on a regular basis. Twice-daily brushing, along with daily flossing, prevent the buildup of plaque by depriving bacteria of the food they use to make enamel-destroying acids. The night-time brushing is particularly important because saliva production is reduced when you’re asleep—so going to bed without brushing means your teeth are especially vulnerable.
Chew Gum after Meals
One of the body’s most important natural defense mechanisms against tooth decay is saliva, which contains minerals that strengthen teeth and enzymes that neutralize harmful acids. Chewing helps stimulate saliva production, so chewing sugar-free gum, or sucking a sugar-free candy, after eating is a good way to get saliva flowing and reduce bacterial activity. If you’re unable to brush your teeth after a meal, chewing gum is a good substitute.
Reduce Your Sugar Intake and Eat More Decay-Fighting Foods
The main food sources for oral bacteria are sugars and starches. These are the foods that bacteria use to manufacture those tooth-destroying acids, so the heavier your diet is in sugar and starch, the higher your risk of tooth decay and cavities. It’s especially risky combined with poor oral hygiene habits, since this combination means sugar and starch are left on the teeth for long periods of time, allowing bacteria to grow unchecked. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat sugary foods, of course, but when you do, it’s important to mitigate the damage by brushing or chewing sugar-free gum afterwards.
Dietary choices play an important part in the fight against cavities, and it’s not just about reducing your sugar intake. Foods like dairy products and leafy green vegetables are high in calcium and are great for strengthening teeth as well as bones. High-fiber foods help keep saliva flowing, and whole grains and vegetables contain nutrients like magnesium and B vitamins that are important for healthy teeth and gums.
Schedule your next routine checkup with James Mitchell DDS and keep prevention methods part of your dental care.