The CDC reports that 25% of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 suffer from at least one cavity. If left untreated, cavities can cause such problems as pain, infections, and abscesses under the gums. At Central Texas Orthodontics in Austin, TX, Dr. Brian St. Louis is passionate about helping his clients achieve and maintain optimal oral health. Today, we’re taking a closer look at cavity prevention so you can avoid severe pain and other complications.
What Foods Should You Avoid for Cavity Prevention?
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), if you are concerned about cavities, you should stay away from sticky sweets and candies, like caramels and lollipops. Instead, if you want to eat something sweet, consider eating chocolate because it doesn’t take long to clear out of your mouth. Also, keep in mind that chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa has been shown to have many health benefits.
You should also avoid eating potato chips, soft bread, and other starchy foods that can easily become trapped between your teeth. Moreover, you should avoid drinking carbonated soda. These beverages are very high in added sugar, and they also are high in citric and phosphoric acids that can wreak havoc on your tooth enamel. Furthermore, you should avoid consuming alcohol and medications that can dry out your mouth significantly.
What Foods Are Good for Oral Health?
The ADA advises that vegetables, fruits, and other foods that are high in fiber are excellent for oral health. They promote saliva production and help keep your gums and teeth clean. The best thing you can do for your oral health is to practice proper oral hygiene, but eating foods that boost saliva flow is the second-best thing you can do. Saliva production is so important for your oral health because it contains trace amounts of phosphate and calcium.
This is important because it minimizes the effects of enzymes and bacterial acids destroying minerals in your teeth. Dairy products, like cheese, also facilitate saliva production. Moreover, dairy products are high in minerals that are required for optimal oral health. Furthermore, sugar-free gum is great for cavity prevention because it encourages saliva production.
What Drinks Are Good for Oral Health?
Black tea, green tea, and milk are very good beverages to consider if you are worried about your oral health. Black and green tea are great because they are very high in polyphenols. This type of phenol is beneficial because it helps kill bad bacteria and keeps bacteria from producing damaging acid. Milk is a solid choice because it is rich in essential minerals and other micronutrients that help keep your teeth and gums healthy and strong.
Essential Cavity Prevention Tips
One of the best things you can do for cavity prevention is to eat sweet foods with your meals. For instance, if you want a slice of chocolate cake, eat it immediately after your meal. Saliva production increases significantly when you eat a meal, so any sugar you consume will be rinsed out of your mouth more quickly. Additionally, you should stick to nutritious snacks if you are hungry between meals.
If you go for a starchy or sweet snack, chew a stick of sugar-free gum after your snack to boost saliva production and rid your mouth of bits of food. Also, you can mitigate your risk of cavities by drinking fluoridated water. Furthermore, you should brush your teeth at least twice per day and floss at least once daily.
What Causes Cavities?
Cavities are sometimes referred to as tooth decay or caries, but they are actually caused by tooth decay. Tooth decay is a long process that starts with the formation of dental plaque, a sticky, clear film that coats your teeth. It forms when your teeth are not cleaned adequately and you consume lots of starches and high-sugar foods and rinks.
Plaque contains acids that strip minerals from the hard enamel that protects your teeth. The tiny holes caused by this erosion are the first stage of cavities. When enough of the enamel has been worn down, the soft dentin beneath your enamel can be damaged by acid-producing bacteria. It is at this point that tooth sensitivity can occur because dentin is connected to the nerves in the teeth.
What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Cavities?
Your diet is one of the most significant risk factors for developing cavities. The more foods and drinks you consume that are high in sugar, prone to getting stuck in your mouth, or reduce saliva production, the more likely it is that you will develop at least one cavity. The frequency at which you eat and drink also affects your risk of developing a cavity. You should not sip acidic drinks throughout the day or graze on starchy or sweet foods.
Poor oral hygiene is another significant risk factor for the development of cavities. To mitigate the risk of a cavity, you should try to brush your teeth within 20 minutes of eating or drinking. Moreover, your risk of getting a cavity increases if you do not get enough fluoride. Furthermore, the location of a tooth affects its likelihood of forming a cavity. Molars and premolars are most likely to get cavities.
What Complications Can Arise From Untreated Cavities?
Some of the most common complications that can arise from untreated cavities are pain, difficulty chewing, and tooth abscesses. Additionally, untreated cavities may cause pus or swelling around the affected teeth.
Depending on the severity of your cavities, you may experience pain so great that you have trouble focusing at work. Additionally, you may suffer from nutrient insufficiencies or deficiencies due to extreme difficulty eating. Moreover, severe cavities can cause tooth loss, negatively affecting your self-esteem. Furthermore, tooth abscesses, in rare cases, can lead to potentially fatal infections.
How Can Cavities Be Treated?
Cavity treatments can vary depending on the severity of the cavity and other factors. If your cavity is only mild, fluoride treatments can help restore your enamel. However, it is important to understand that you can’t get enough fluoride from food, tap water, toothpaste, and mouthwash to rebuild enamel. You will need a professional fluoride treatment.
If you do not have an early-stage cavity, you may need a filling to restore your decayed tooth. During your evaluation, we will advise you on what materials would best fit your needs and preferences if we feel tooth restoration is the best treatment for you. If your tooth is significantly weakened by extensive decay, a crown may be necessary.
What Other Treatment Methods May Be Necessary in Severe Cases?
If your cavity is so severe that the pulp deep within your tooth is affected, a root canal may be required. A root canal is a highly effective treatment that can save teeth that are very badly damaged, and it is a great option if a tooth is infected. If you leave an infected tooth untreated for long enough, tooth extraction is the only viable option. Therefore, you should not ignore tooth pain and other cavity symptoms.
Furthermore, sometimes cases are so severe that tooth restoration is not possible. In such cases, a tooth extraction is required. However, you should know that nearby teeth can shift due to the gap left where the removed tooth once was. You may also need a dental implant or bridge to prevent orthodontic problems that may arise due to shifting teeth.
How Are Cavities Diagnosed?
To find out if you have a cavity, you need to meet with a qualified oral health expert to discuss what problems you’re having, like tooth pain or sensitivity when drinking hot or cold beverages. Furthermore, an examination of your mouth and teeth is necessary to confirm if you have a cavity.
While diagnosing the cause of your symptoms, your teeth will be probed with special instruments to identify any soft areas. If you have a cavity, dental X-rays are helpful for showing the severity of the cavity.
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Foods you should avoid for cavity prevention include sticky sweets and candies and foods that are likely to get stuck in your teeth. Additionally, you should avoid carbonated, high-sugar drinks, alcohol, and medications that can reduce saliva production. Foods that are great for oral health include dairy products and high-fiber foods. If you suspect you have a cavity, schedule a consultation at Central Texas Orthodontics in Austin, TX to learn how we can help.