Are cavities inevitable? The answer is: absolutely not! Yet tooth decay, caused by a proliferation of harmful bacteria in the mouth, is often cited as the world’s most common chronic disease in both adults and children. In the U.S. alone, dental disease is thought to be responsible for the loss of some 50 million school hours and 160 million work hours each year. And according to some estimates, the lifetime cost of maintaining a restored cavity can exceed $2,000 per tooth! That’s why it’s so important to prevent cavities before they start. What’s the best way to do that? Here are five tips to help you get started:
- Understand the issue – Cavities form when certain types of oral bacteria feed on sugars that come from your diet. After they process sugar, these microorganisms release acids that erode the hard outer coating of the teeth, forming small holes (cavities), which get larger and deeper over time. Some teeth (and some individuals) are more susceptible to cavities than others. It takes four factors for a cavity to form: sugar that is converted to acids, an acidic diet, bacteria, and vulnerable teeth. Effective decay prevention focuses on these three areas.
- Practice good oral hygiene – That means brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and flossing at least once a day (and more often if necessary). Brushing and flossing help remove the sticky film (plaque) that coats your teeth—the substance in which bacteria thrive. Controlling harmful bacteria can go a long way toward preventing cavities. If you need to “brush up” on your oral hygiene techniques, just ask your dentist or hygienist for a demonstration.
- Improve your diet – Everything you eat and drink finds its way through your mouth, and many foods contain sugars and acids that promote tooth decay. Reduce or avoid these foods and beverages—for example: sweets, sodas, “sports” or “energy” drinks, and processed foods with added corn syrup or sugar—and you can reduce your risk of getting cavities. But don’t go hungry: Switch to healthier snacks, like fruits and vegetables… and be sure to drink plenty of water!
- Watch out for cavity promoters – In addition to the items mentioned above, other factors can increase your likelihood of developing tooth decay. Some medications (both prescription and non-prescription) can cause mouth dryness, which makes you more susceptible to cavities. Likewise, using alcohol and tobacco increases your cavity risk. And some medical conditions (such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and eating disorders) also make tooth decay more likely. If these affect you, ask your dentist what steps you can take to help keep cavities in check.
- Get regular checkups & cleanings – Routine dental-office visits are among the best values in health care: Not only will you get a professional teeth cleaning (the kind you just can’t do at home), but you’ll have a complete dental exam and a thorough assessment of your oral health. If any problems are found, they can be taken care of before they get worse. Better still, your dentist can offer you an individualized plan for maintaining top-notch oral hygiene. Working together, you and your dental professionals can help make cavities a thing of the past. Call us at 1-800-238-5163 to find out about how dental savings plans can help make quality dental care affordable.