Keeping Your Teeth Healthy and Free From Cavities
Cavities in the teeth are caused by sugar and acid that dissolve the enamel and make holes in the teeth. The bacteria in your mouth eat the sugar you leave on your teeth and produce a waste product that is an acid that dissolves the enamel. Sugar that stays in your mouth a long time, like the lollipop or sugared mints or sugared Life Savers or sugared breath mints are the worst.
Sugared sodas, like Coca Cola, contain a lot of sugar and the bubbles are carbonic acid. Together they dissolve the enamel rapidly. Even diet soda contains the acid that contributes to cavities.
Some medicines that people take cause decreased saliva flow. Saliva is a chemical buffer that helps to lower the acid level (increase the chemical PH) and that is good. Decreased saliva flow can lead to cavities in the teeth.
What can you do to prevent cavities?
After meals and certainly before bedtime, clean all the food debris and germs off of your teeth. When sleeping, saliva flow is decreased and food left on the teeth just bakes in overnight causing stain and tarter formation and cavities.
Brushing is good but does not clean the dirt between the teeth. If the dirt remains between the teeth it causes cavities and gum infection, or periodontal disease which can lead to teeth loss. Dental flossing between all the teeth is vital. You do not wash half of your face, so only brushing cleans half of the tooth. FLOSS and BRUSH in the morning and after meals if possible and absolutely before bed. Every time you brush, you floss.
Fluoride helps to harden the teeth surface against cavities. Floss first, and then use fluoride-containing toothpaste to brush your teeth. Spit out the toothpaste, but do not rinse out the toothpaste. The fluoride in the toothpaste keeps working until your next meal or while you are sleeping.
If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, keep doing it. It bleeds only because the dirt left on the teeth causes irritation. The first day, it bleeds but you are cleaning out the dirt. The second day of brushing and flossing the gums are cleaner and starting to heal and bleed less. The third day of hard work, it no longer bleeds. If you find a spot that bleeds, that is the spot to keep working on.
- Drink milk, water, unsweetened tea and unsweetened juices.
- Between meals snacks that stimulate saliva and do not contain sugar are good, such as carrots, celery.
- Sugarless gum stimulates saliva flow but does not cause cavities.
- Floss and brush in the morning, after meals and before bedtime with a FLUORIDE containing toothpaste.
- Avoid between meal snacks that contain sugar.
- DO NOT DRINK SUGARED SODAS.
The dental office check-up and cleaning at regular intervals removes remaining tarter and germs. It provides a chance for teaching you how to improve your home technique to keep your teeth in excellent condition for life. The dentist also applies fluoride after teeth cleaning to further harden the teeth against cavities.
Your Children’s Teeth
Keeping your children’s’ teeth healthy is important for comfortable chewing, and also to preserve the space necessary when the permanent teeth begin to come in.
The lower front baby teeth begin to come at age six months. More teeth come in until there are a total of twenty baby teeth at about age two.
The permanent teeth begin forming under the gum at about age two. The lower permanent front teeth and the permanent first molar teeth come in at about age six.
Children’s teeth are at risk for cavities (dental caries) from sugared drinks and sugared candies. If the child takes a bottle to the crib or bed, it can only contain water. Milk in the crib in a bottle can spoil and lead to severe cavities in the teeth. Tooth brushing at least once daily with a fluoride containing tooth paste is necessary to prevent dental caries.
The United States Preventive Service Task Force found oral fluoride supplementation effective at reducing the incidence of dental caries. Your dentist may apply a fluoride varnish at check-up and cleaning visits to harden the teeth against dental caries. Children should visit the dentist at age three and then continue check-up visits every six months through adulthood.
Younger than age 6: Brush with a children’s toothpaste at least once daily. Reduce Risk Factors: Unsweetened natural juices, milk and water are great drinks. Floss your children’s teeth when they allow you to, at the same time that adults are flossing their own teeth. Between-meal snacks that do not contain sugar, like carrots, celery and peanut butter are great.
Age 6-13 and older: Use toothpaste that contains 1000 to 1100 parts per million fluoride. Fluoride toothpaste plays an outstanding role as an effective caries preventive measure in children.
Most toothpastes have 1000-1100 parts per million fluoride. 0.24% NaF, 0.76% NaMFP or 0.45% SnF2 all mean the toothpaste contains 1000-1100 parts per million fluoride.
For children that have had a cavity or who use well water at home may be prescribed a fluoride supplement for daily use, such as a fluoride rinse or a fluoride vitamin supplement to help prevent cavities.