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How To Prevent Dental Cavities

Dental caries is still one of the most prevalent diseases all over the world. Having the knowledge of how cavities occurs and how you can prevent it can help you avoid toothaches

How To Prevent Dental Cavities

Dental caries is still one of the most prevalent diseases all over the world. Having the knowledge of how cavities occurs and how you can prevent it can help you avoid toothaches

Dental cavities (also known as caries) is one of the oldest and most common diseases found in humans. While there have been continuous efforts to reduce its prevalence, it is still widespread, especially in lower socio-economic classes.[1] With the growing shift of treatment strategies in all fields of medicine and health, the management of dental caries has also seen a change of approach. Previously caries management strategies focused on removing the caries, making a cavity and filling the defect. But modern dentistry follows a medical model of disease management; the newer strategies emphasize on disease prevention and conservation of tooth structure.[2]

Dental caries is a disease process that depends on several etiologic factors, which cause the destruction of the dental tissues and produces local and general complications. It is one of the most widespread diseases in the civilized populations with a prevalence of 40% at the age of seven years and 85% in seventeen year-old boys.[3] Although there has been a reduction in the prevalence of dental caries in both developed and developing countries.[4] But still, the prevalence remains high among populations of low socioeconomic status. Therefore, socioeconomic indicators are associated with risk factors for dental caries. [5] [6]

CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS OF DENTAL CAVITIES

In order to be appropriately equipped against caries, you need to know the causes and risk factors that are involved in the initiation and development of dental caries. Caries is a multifactorial disease caused by host, agent, and environmental factors. Factors involved in the dental caries process include the tooth, bacteria in the form of a dental plaque, and a diet containing sugar. The quantity, quality, and frequency of sugar intake have a definitive influence on the incidence and prevalence of caries.

Carious tooth decay is mostly caused by the bacteria in the plaque that adheres to the tooth surface. This is facilitated by too much consumption of sugar in our routine diet. Therefore, limiting your consumption of sugary foods, drinks, cake, cookies and hard candy is one way to prevent tooth decay. Having a sweet meal once in a while is perfectly normal but it should be matched with a routine dental hygiene care so that the plaque does not stay attached to tooth surface for a long time.

PREVENTIVE STRATEGY

As it is said prevention is better than cure, so is the case here with the dental caries. With growing research into the etiology and risk factors associated with the disease, we have now come to understand the process of dental decay very clearly. So, by following certain precautionary measures we can completely prevent the incidence of caries (along with the associated pain and expenses). Here we discuss some of the basic preventive measures that will definitely help you avoid dental caries in future;

DAILY BRUSHING

The best weapon in your fight against caries is at your own home. The importance of brushing teeth properly at least two times a day cannot be stressed enough.  You can use a regular toothbrush or an electric toothbrush with a fluoride containing tooth paste. It is always important that you take your time while brushing the teeth and not miss any surface of the tooth. The front (outer surface), back (inner surface) and top (occlusal surface) need to be cleaned properly with small circular or vertical strokes depending on your manual dexterity.

Both children and adults can lower their risk of tooth decay by regularly brushing their teeth with fluoride toothpaste.[7] Fluoride helps to make enamel stronger, thus protecting the teeth from decay. Toothpaste that has over 0.1% fluoride in it (more than 1000 ppm) is only recommended once permanent teeth have come in, usually when the child is about six years old. Brushing your teeth removes plaque, but it will form again in a few hours, so you have to brush at least twice a day or preferably after every meal. Use a soft toothbrush and brush your teeth gently. Avoid using hard toothbrush and doing aggressive horizontal brushing as it will damage your soft tissue as well as hard tissues.


FLOSS DAILY AND RINSE

As recommended by the American Dental Association you should Floss at least once a day. Although flossing and interdental brushing has not been proven to prevent tooth decay directly, but it has as secondary affect on the oral health and wellness. Food debris gets caught in between your teeth when you eat. If the debris is not removed, it can lead to cavities. In order to prevent the gums from becoming inflamed (gingivitis), it may be a good idea to remove plaque that forms between your teeth by using dental floss, interdental brushes, or toothpick.

Mouthwash is another commonly used dental hygiene product especially for those people who are at a high risk of developing cavities. Some mouthwashes contain fluoride. There are several antimicrobial mouth rinses on the market that have been clinically proven to reduce plaque. Regular rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash can effectively prevent tooth decay too.[8]

USE SUGAR FREE GUM

There is consistent evidence to support the use of Xylitol and Sorbitol containing chewing gum as part of normal oral hygiene to prevent dental caries.[9] Xylitol has a sweet flavor comparable to sugar, and it is not only non-cariogenic, but also anti-cariogenic. The anti-cariogenicity of xylitol is affected more by the frequency of intake than by the amount consumed.

Numerous clinical studies have shown that consumption of xylitol can significantly reduce plaque accumulation, bacterial load and dental caries increment. The use of sugar free gums has become known recently since the ADA (in 2007) gave their approval to a number of chewing gums manufacturers to help prevent cavities.  Frequent chewing of sugar free gums has also proven to protect against caries by stimulating saliva flow.[10]

GET DENTAL SEALANTS

When it comes to areas that are susceptible to dental caries, there are certain morphological features like pits and fissures on the occlusal (chewing) surface of your back teeth which tend to have food stagnation at them. Due to their tricky shape it also becomes difficult to clean them properly and they usually end up being the initiating points of dental caries.

Dental Sealants are a protective layer of plastic that can be applied to these pits and fissures of your molar teeth. As the name indicates, it seals off those pits and fissures thus shielding tooth enamel from plaque and acid. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using sealants on all school age children. Once applied, sealants may last for several years before they need to be replaced, but they need to be checked regularly. Although still commonly used for children, sealants have proven beneficial for adults as well.

WATCH WHAT AND WHEN YOU EAT

Routine diet and nutrition always play a crucial role especially when it comes to childhood caries. It is important to adopt healthy eating habits and limit the frequency of free sugars to not let it exceed more than 4 times a day. It is also important to know that the ‘frequency of intake’ of such foods is more destructive than the ‘amount of intake’ at a single time.

Use of candy, sodas, dry fruits and other sugary foods contain sugars that help plaque-forming bacteria survive in your mouth. These foods also get stuck on your tooth surface and stay there for a long time thus further aggravating the process of decay. Diet soda and energy drinks include citric and phosphoric acids which may lead to demineralization of tooth enamel.

It is important to replace these destructive dietary habits with beneficial alternatives. Fats and proteins in the diet help to protect the teeth from sugars that become adherent to the teeth. Dairy products rich in calcium and phosphorous help in remineralization by preventing the pH of the mouth from falling below 5.5. Opt to snack on raw fruits and vegetables as much as possible because they can additionally help remove plaque by naturally “scrubbing” your teeth. Good nutrition helps to prevent periodontal infection and diseases. Crunchy and fibrous food increases the flow of the saliva which has antibacterial properties.^[11]

STAY IN TOUCH WITH THE DENTIST

No matter how punctual you are about your oral hygiene or how busy your schedule is. There is no excuse from avoiding a dental visit at least once a year (preferably every 6 months). Regular check-ups at the dentist can protect your teeth as any hidden tooth decay that might be developing could be detected early and treated accordingly.

After a thorough examination your dentist can advise a change in your toothpaste or even fix your faulty brushing technique. The professional may also suggest you to get an ultrasonic scaling done to remove any tartar between your gums and teeth or prescribe use of dental sealants if he thinks necessary. No matter how strict oral hygiene regime and preventive strategy you follow, none of that can replace the value of the expert opinion that you will get upon dental visit. Therefore, do not be careless about your oral health and get in touch with your dentist right away.

Allie Leon, Chief Fun Officer

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