When it comes to cavities, that old saying is true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s much easier to take steps to prevent tooth decay than it is to treat cavities that have already formed, particularly once they’ve progressed to the point of requiring extensive dental work. Fortunately, there are many effective strategies for preventing tooth decay, and by combining a few of them, you can maximize your chances of having a cavity-free smile.
Good Oral Hygiene
It goes without saying that one of the most important steps you can take to avoid cavities is to practice good dental hygiene habits. Although most people believe they’re already doing this, take a minute to think about your daily routine and whether you’re following the guidelines below.
First and foremost, brush your teeth for two minutes every morning and night. You should time your twice-daily toothbrushing sessions if you aren’t already—most of us underestimate how long two minutes is when we’re brushing. To keep track, set a timer on your phone for two minutes or, better yet, buy an electric toothbrush with a built-in timer. If you only brush in the morning, start brushing at night, too. It’s important to remove the food debris and plaque that has accumulated throughout the day before you go to sleep.
Brush the fronts and backs of all of your teeth, as well as the chewing surfaces where plaque accumulates. It can help to divide your teeth into quadrants—top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right—and brush each section for 30 seconds.
Flossing should be done at least once a day, either before or after brushing. When you floss your teeth, be sure to go all the way down (or up) to the gumline. Tooth decay is common between the teeth, where toothbrushes can’t reach, so flossing shouldn’t be skipped.
Regular Dental Cleanings
Even if you maintain excellent dental hygiene habits at home, plaque will eventually build up on your teeth. When plaque isn’t removed with brushing, it hardens into a sticky substance known as tartar or calculus, which can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning.
The reason this matters is because the germs that cause gum disease and tooth decay are contained in tartar. Tartar can wreak havoc on your oral health, but frequent dental cleanings will help keep it at bay. Your dental hygienist will polish the enamel after removing tartar from the surfaces of your teeth, creating a smooth surface that makes it harder for new plaque and tartar deposits to form.
Fluoride is a natural mineral that is necessary for good dental health. It protects the tooth enamel from decay by strengthening it. Although the toothpaste you use and the water you drink likely contain fluoride, it’s also helpful to get fluoride treatments from your dentist on a regular basis if your teeth are prone to decay.
Many of our young patients benefit from dental sealants. This treatment involves applying a BPA-free coating directly to the tooth to seal grooves and pits on the chewing surfaces where plaque and tartar collect, causing decay. Dental sealants are an effective approach for preventing pediatric dental caries because they are inexpensive, quick, and painless.