According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 90% of adults over the age of 20 have had at least one cavity, and about 25% of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 currently have at least one cavity.
Dr. Stephen Hiroshige and his staff are here to help with a filling if you develop a cavity, but we’re sure you’d prefer not to have a cavity in the first place. In this post, we offer you our best tips for avoiding tooth decay.
First, what is a cavity?
A cavity is a hole in your tooth. In the earliest stages, you may not be able to see it, or it may look like a white spot. At that point, it can be healed. Eventually, it looks like a brown or black spot.
Most often, cavities form in the areas of your teeth where food — especially sweet foods or foods high in carbohydrates — is likely to stick, such as between your back teeth or in the crevices in your teeth. When you eat, bacteria in your mouth feeds off the food that gets caught in your teeth.
That bacteria makes acid, and the acid weakens your enamel, the hard coating that protects the softer dentin of your teeth. Once the acid weakens your enamel, the bacteria can get through to the dentin, and eventually, to the soft pulp inside your tooth, where your nerves are. When that happens, it’s likely you’ll develop an infection.
How to know if you have a cavity
You may not know you have a cavity, especially during the earliest stages. This is one of the biggest reasons we encourage you to have regular dental exams and cleanings.
Some ways you might know you have a cavity include:
- Pain in your tooth for no apparent reason
- Pain when you eat or drink something hot, cold, or sweet
- Visible holes or pitting in your teeth
- White, brown, or black spots on your teeth
- Pain when you bite down
Tip 1: Limit snacking
The more often you eat or drink, especially sweet foods, the more risk you have of developing a cavity. Limit intake to meals if possible, and if not, aim for healthier snacks.
Tip 2: Brush more often
You know you should floss and brush twice a day, at least. Brushing after each meal can help, too. Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
It’s also important to use a soft-bristled brush that you replace every three to four months. Good technique is also crucial.
Tip 3: Drink more water
Tap water contains fluoride, which helps reduce tooth decay. In addition to the benefits of fluoride, drinking water helps to rinse away food particles.
Tip 4: Floss and use mouthwash
Once a day, be sure to floss to remove any food particles between your teeth. If you aren’t in the habit of flossing, or if you aren’t sure how, ask us. We’re happy to help.
Additionally, use a mouthwash that contains fluoride once a day. Some types also have antiseptic ingredients that also kill bacteria.
Tip 5: Talk to us about fluoride supplements or dental sealants
We may be able to help you avoid cavities with supplemental fluoride or dental sealants. These aren’t always appropriate, or you may have questions about them. If you’re concerned about cavities, we’re happy to discuss your options.
If you’re due for a regular cleaning, you think you may have a cavity, or you have questions about dental care or oral hygiene, schedule an appointment. Our staff is ready to help!