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Oral health: Seven ways to prevent tooth decay

Tooth decay occurs when foods containing carbohydrates — sugars and starches — are left on your teeth. These foods include bread, cereals, milk, fruit and cakes.

These foods are digested by bacteria living in the mouth, making them acids. The plaque is created by bacteria, acid, food waste, and saliva, which clings to the teeth. The plaque acids remove the teeth’s enamel coating, forming gaps in the teeth, called cavities.

Who can have cavities?

Many people assume that only kids get cavities, but changes in the mouth as you age make them an adult issue, too. As you mature, the gums draw away from your teeth. Older adults often experience deterioration around the edges of fillings. Many seniors have a lot of dental work, such as fillings, which can weaken teeth and break down over the years. Bacteria then grow in the cracks and creates decay.

Tooth decay and cavity symptoms

The earlier the signs are detected, the smoother and simpler the cure for a cavity is. Watch for these signs:

  • Pain: A toothache is one of the most common symptoms of a cavity.
  • Pressure: Both an increased sensitivity to the tooth and discomfort may suggest a cavity while biting down.
  • Pits: Signs of a cavity can include a visible hole in the affected tooth or pit. The holes are also apparent only on a dental x-ray.

Effective teeth treatment can help avoid tooth decay, and eventually cavities. The first step toward good oral health is adhering to a rigorous oral hygiene regime.

Prevent tooth decay

  • Brush your teeth with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, at least twice a day. Brush especially before going to bed.
  • Clean your teeth every day with dental floss or interdental cleaners.
  • Rinse with a fluoride-containing mouthwash daily. Some rinses often come with antiseptic ingredients to help destroy plaque-causing bacteria.
  • Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limited snacks. Avoid carbohydrates such as sweets and chips, which can remain on the tooth surface. If sticky foods are eaten, brush your teeth afterwards.
  • Check with your dentist about the use of supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth.
  • Drink fluoridated water.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.

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