Preventing Tooth Decay

Tooth DecayMost adults in the United States are aware of what dentists consider the main ingredients in combating tooth decay: twice-daily tooth brushing, daily flossing and regular dental visits. These ingredients are indeed all crucial to reducing the amount of tooth decay, but here are a few other, less commonly known, tools for reducing decay’s impact on your teeth.

“Power Tools” for reducing tooth decay

  1. Fluoride treatments – If you’re at moderate to high risk of developing cavities, your dentist can apply an in-office fluoride treatment that uses a much stronger concentration of fluoride than over-the-counter toothpastes and mouth rinses provide. These treatments can be repeated to strengthen your teeth’s ability to resist decay.
  2. Dental sealants – Sealants are plastic coatings placed on the chewing surfaces of the back molars to protect them from decay. Although more commonly applied to children’s teeth, adults who do not have fillings or other restorations may also receive sealants to protect their teeth.
  3. Products containing xylitol – Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol, used as a sweetener in gums, candies and other products, that inhibits the growth of certain types of bacteria that cause cavities. Your dentist may recommend that you try chewing sugar-free gum that contains xylitol to prevent tooth decay. To get this benefit, the gum you choose must list xylitol as the first ingredient.
  4. Alkalizing mouth pH – Research has shown that a healthy mouth has a pH level that is nearly neutral (around 7.0 on the pH scale). Acidic saliva can demineralize tooth enamel and contribute to tooth decay. Consuming xylitol gum can help improve saliva pH; so can eating alkalizing foods such as watermelon, asparagus, mushrooms, mango, apples, and garlic.
  5. Repairing damaged teeth – Teeth that become cracked or chipped are much more vulnerable to tooth decay than undamaged teeth. Depending on the extent of the problem, your dentist may recommend dental bonding, porcelain veneers, a crown, or another restoration to repair the damage.

“There are many routes for tooth decay to get started in your mouth,” says Dr. Carol Ford, a cosmetic dentist with a practice in central Phoenix. “Employing these tools can help tip the scales back toward oral health.”

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