Learn how to avoid getting a dreaded cavity filling with these tips to protect your chompers!
A cavity filling is sometimes necessary, but it can also be a scary and costly experience. Learn how to prevent cavities with these good habits!
Most of us are familiar with a cavity filling, as many of us need our caries treated this way. We brush our teeth every day to keep our mouth and teeth clean, yet we sometimes still need a tooth filling when visiting the dentist. But do we know the real reason why we get them and, even more importantly, how to prevent cavities?
I took to the streets of New Orleans to see what people there knew about cavities. Watch this video to see how much they learned. Perhaps you need a reminder on how to stop tooth decay too!
Did you know that there are habits that you can develop to halt cavities before reaching the stage of needing a dental filling? Keep reading to find out more about how to stop tooth decay and how to prevent cavities!
Why cavity filling is necessary
First, let's chat a little bit about cavity filling. Those who've been under the drill probably already know that getting a dental filling can be pretty uncomfortable. But It is an essential treatment as it protects cavity ridden teeth, preventing further damage and restores the teeth's normal functions.
Nevertheless, it also involves drilling away the decayed tooth, which is often a costly, invasive, and down-right unnerving experience that patients hate to endure.
Formation of tooth decay
But we're here to talk about prevention above everything else, so you don't have to go through this nerve-wracking procedure often. To find out how to prevent cavities, let's understand what causes them to form in the first place.
Sugar is often seen as the main supervillain of the cavity world. Although it is a significant contributing factor, cavities are more directly linked to an acid-base or pH imbalance in the mouth.
Everything from our diet, what and when we eat and drink, open mouth breathing, saliva, and dry mouth, can all cause our pH levels (which are usually in a neutral state of pH 7.5) to become acidic. If our mouth is kept at a pH of 7.5 and above, the teeth can actually strengthen and remineralize. Good news, eh?!
Tooth decay starts with the formation of bacterial plaque. This sticky substance builds upon the teeth and generates acids from the sugars we eat. These acids corrode the tooth's outer enamel, causing gradual mineral loss. If decay is not treated, it will eventually reach the dentin, the tooth's inner structure, causing sensitivity. And this is when a dental filling is needed to prevent infection from spreading to the pulp.
Once it gets to the pulp, it can cause some serious damage, excruciating tooth pain, and even result in irreversible tooth loss. As soon as a cavity forms, tooth filling is essential to repair the damage and prevent further ones.
Is a dental filling always required to treat cavities?
As a dental hygienist, I always try to take a prevention-first approach to oral diseases for my patients. Unfortunately, by the time you experience any pain from tooth decay, it's usually already too late to reverse it or take preventive measures.
Although removing a cavity without drilling away decay and filling in the tooth is impossible, you can stop or even reverse decay during the early stages.
Regular and frequent brushing, minor lifestyle changes, and regular visits to the dentist can help stop plaque buildup in its tracks and remove the need for cavity filling. So, that brings us to the big question: how to stop tooth decay?
Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste
Keeping a healthy mouth prevents dental caries. The most adequate and basic form of oral hygiene is to brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste.
Using a fluoride toothpaste is vital in the fight against tooth demineralization. It has many benefits for the teeth. The main one is strengthening the enamel, which helps your teeth defend themselves against acid erosion. Fluoride can also work to "remineralize" the enamel, reversing early signs of decay. Simple really!
Silver Diamine Fluoride
Silver Diamine Fluoride is another non-invasive, rapid, inexpensive, and almost painless method of treating cavities. It is an antimicrobial liquid made of silver that acts as an antimicrobial agent to kill pathogenic bacteria, while the fluoride works to halt tooth decay and prevent further deterioration. It can also strengthen the teeth's dentin.
Overall, the liquid helps reinforce the tooth structure and stabilize affected teeth until further action is required.
Cutting down on sugar
Your teeth are more susceptible to cavities and decay if sugar is left to sit on them for a long time. If you decide to eat a sweet treat for breakfast, the sugar will stay on your teeth for the rest of the day, giving it a high chance of developing into decay if it isn't removed by brushing.
But cutting sugar out of your life is easier said than done! Even I lack the will to resist a caramel frappuccino every now and then!
Sugar-free chewing gum
You can try to kick sugar out of your diet slowly by using sugar-free chewing gums throughout the day. The gum can help distract you from reaching for other sugary snacks as chewing tricks the body into thinking that you are full.
It also stimulates saliva production, a vital component of maintaining a clean mouth.
Regular visits to the dentist
Visiting your dentist at least every six months allows them to spot any early signs of decay and nip it in the bud. This is an essential step towards prevention that can save you money, pain, time, and discomfort from tooth filling.
You'll also be receiving a full-on dental cleaning to remove plaque and stains in every nook and cranny, leaving you with squeaky clean, cavity-free teeth.
You can also ask your dentist about sealants to control tooth decay, or fluoride treatments to strengthen the teeth against plaque bacteria and acids.
Drinking plenty of water
Our saliva can remove debris and neutralize acids, helping restore minerals to the teeth. If dry mouth frequently occurs due to open-mouth breathing or taking certain medications etc., insufficient saliva production can contribute to enamel erosion, tooth decay, and dental staining.
Luckily, you can counteract this by drinking plenty of water and/or chewing on sugar-free gum!
Don't wait any longer — your cavity prevention starts here!
Follow my tips above to reduce your chances of developing cavities and tooth decay. Then, you won't need to visit the dentist for a nail-biting cavity filling. More importantly, you can have peace of mind that you're doing everything you can to maintain a healthy mouth, so you'll be less likely to have emergency visits to the dentist in the future.