Cavities, Be Gone! The Secret to Keeping the “Sugar Bugs” Away
How to get a cavity free smile:
My #1 recommendation is to avoid rinsing your mouth after toothbrushing. Gasp! I know this comes as a surprise to many, since culturally we have all been raised to believe this is bad and our mouths don’t feel clean unless rinsed. However, there is research to suggest that following a “Spit, Don’t Rinse” regimen can make a big difference in cavity prevention.
“Spit, don’t rinse” is especially important if you are using prescription toothpaste or toothpaste for sensitivity. If you rinse them off right away, there’s not enough time of exposure to achieve any measurable effect.
Other tips to decrease cavity risk:
- Floss daily. I know people get tired of hearing us harp on this but it’s true, and your gums will thank you too!
- Brush 2x/day for 2 FULL minutes each time. I know two minutes can seem like an eternity when toothbrushing but it is the amount of time you should be spending cleaning your pearly whites if you want to keep them squeaky clean. Sometimes it can help to break up your mouth into 4 quadrants and spend 30 seconds on each. Many electric toothbrushes offer 30 second timers and buzz or vibrate after that amount of time to let you know that you are able to move onto the next area. We offer discounted pricing on electric toothbrushes in the office compared to retail pricing – ask us at your next visit if you want to learn more!
- Eat fewer sugary, carbohydrate rich foods. And less often. Every time you eat or drink food with carbs, it takes 30 minutes for your mouth acidity to return to normal. Which means cavities are forming during that time. Ruh-Roh! So maybe rethink your bedtime snack in the future or try to eat at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth and going to bed.
- Beware of highly acidic food and drinks as well, since the damage to your teeth will be even more severe than carbohydrates on their own. Though most of us think about cavities being formed by bacteria, the truth is that cavities are the result of acids secreted by bacteria after they digest carbohydrates. Acidic foods + carbs = perfect storm for cavity formation.
- Eat crunchy foods. Foods like celery, carrots, and apples act as natural plaque removers and will help keep your teeth cleaner. Plus they are healthy!
- Chew xylitol gum or lozenges up to 8x a day. Just be sure to keep it away from the family dog since xylitol is 100x as toxic as chocolate to man’s best friend. Much like dogs, the bacteria in your mouth that cause cavities can ingest but not digest this sugar alcohol and often use all their energy trying. This is a win against bacteria but not the pooch who can quickly experience a dangerous drop in blood sugar. Contact your vet if you think your dog has eaten anything containing xylitol.
- Get regular teeth cleanings. Dental hygienists are experts at removing pesky buildup from teeth and can help tell you which areas of your mouth need more attention. Regular visits also help the dentist to stay on top of what’s going on in your mouth and catch any changes before they get out of hand.
- Get fluoride varnish applied during your cleaning if you are at higher risk for cavities, are having gum line sensitivity, or dry mouth. Getting a fluoride treatment can help strengthen your outer tooth structure for many months, reducing your chances of getting cavities between checkups.
- Make tooth brushing the last thing you do before crawling in bed. And remember, no rinsing! Saliva production decreases to practically nothing while you’re sleep so cavity causing bacteria get out of control during the nighttime hours. That’s why most people wake up in the morning with bad breath.
- Ask your dentist or dental hygienist for tips specific to you!