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How to Prevent Cavities: Understanding How Cavities Develop

April 1, 2014

One of the questions patients usually ask is, “Why do I get so many cavities?” followed up with a question “How do I prevent it?” For you to know how to prevent cavities, you must first understand how cavities develop.

What is dental cavity?

You probably know that a dental cavity is a hole in a tooth. But did you know that a cavity is the result of the tooth decay process that happens over time?

Cavities, also known as tooth decay, occur when plaque, the sticky substance that forms on teeth, combines with the sugars and/or starches of the foods that we eat. This combination produces acids that attack tooth enamel.

How does a cavity develop?

According to the NIH, repeated exposures to acid -- for example, if you eat or drink often, especially foods or drinks containing sugar and starches – otherwise known as acid attacks, cause the enamel to continue to lose minerals. An early sign of decay maybe a white spot on your teeth. This means that this spot has lost minerals.

Tooth decay can be stopped or reversed at this point. Enamel can repair itself by using minerals from saliva or other sources such as red meat. This is why there are dentists who suggest you space out eating acidic foods (coffee, soda, sweets) every four hours, to help your teeth recover from an acid attack.

But if the tooth decay process continues, more minerals are lost. Over time, the enamel is weakened and destroyed, forming a cavity. A cavity is permanent damage that a dentist has to repair with a filling.

How to Prevent Cavities

1. Brush your teeth regularly and properly.

You need to brush your teeth twice a day and for at least two minutes each brushing. Children need guidance when they brush their teeth.

2. Floss daily.

Food debris gets caught in between our teeth when we eat. If the debris is not removed, it can lead to cavities. Flossing everyday is the best way to remove food debris from in between the teeth.

3. Eat a balanced diet.

Proper nutrition plays an important role in good dental health. Eating nutritional snacks and limiting the amount of sugary drinks will help to prevent plaque from forming on the teeth.

4. Visit your dentist regularly.

Many cavities can only be detected by a dentist or a dental X-ray. Visiting your dentist for regular check ups and cleanings are a key factor in preventing cavities and staying on top of good oral hygiene.

5. Have Sealants Placed

Dental sealants are a protective coating that is applied to the biting surfaces of the back teeth of children. The sealant protects the tooth from getting a cavity by shielding against bacteria and plaque. Teeth at the back of our mouth, particularly molars, would benefit from sealants as they are usually not reached by our toothbrushes when we brush. There are also teeth that have deep ridges that toothbrushes have a hard time cleaning properly.

Prevention is Better Than Cure

At Indianapolis Dentistry we care so much about preventative care that we have shaped our 5-year warranty program around keeping regular cleaning appointments. As long as you continue to keep your oral hygiene visits every 6-months you can be eligible for free replacement or repair of Dr. Reese’s dental work within the previous 5-years. And if you’ve already had dental treatment, existing patients can be grandfathered into this program.