Anytime you feel that you can skip a day on your oral hygiene regimen, you should reconsider. Even if it seems insignificant, your daily routine of brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash is actually one of the most essential tasks of your day. Although your teeth won’t immediately fall out, the decay process can begin with just one lapse, and before long, you’ll have a cavity or gingivitis. Poor oral health has been linked to severe health problems such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, dementia, and premature death, so it’s imperative to be diligent about caring for your teeth.
If you have a hole in your tooth, you probably have a cavity and should immediately schedule an appointment with your dentist. When treated early, a small filling will probably suffice, but if not treated early, then you’ll need a more invasive treatment such as a crown or a root canal and cap. Several types of filling materials are available, but your choices will be determined by the size and location of the tooth, and your dentist will recommend your best option.
When you eat, the beneficial bacteria in your mouth combine with the food particles to make acids that begin breaking down the food into energy for your body. When not removed through brushing and flossing, the acids will begin to attack your tooth enamel, and decay will set in.
What Types of Oral Hygiene Will Prevent Cavities?
Regular brushing, flossing, and using an antibacterial mouthwash are the most effective daily practices, but you need an annual checkup with your dentist. The American Dental Association publishes guidelines for good oral health, and they’re similar to the following:
- Regular brushing: At a minimum, you should brush in the morning before you eat or drink anything, and at night before you go to bed. The ADA recommends that you also brush after eating a meal or snack, but if that’s not feasible, at least rinse well with plain water. Make sure to use a toothpaste with fluoride that bears the ADA seal of approval.
- Use mouthwash daily: In addition to brushing and flossing, using an antibacterial mouthwash will remove any residual bacteria that brushing missed. Your mouthwash should also carry the ADA seal of approval.
- Get regular dental checkups: Arguably, regular dental checkups are the most important aspect of your good oral hygiene. Not only can your dentist provide you with tips for better oral health, but they can spot minor issues while they’re still minor. This can save you money, time, and pain.
- Use topical dental treatments: Ask your dentist about topical protective coatings for your teeth. They’re applied to the fronts and backs of your teeth and reach into the crevices where your toothbrush may not reach. This deters the formation of decay and the erosion of your tooth enamel.
- Eat healthy, tooth-friendly foods: Many of the foods that keep your body healthy can also keep your teeth healthy, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. The fiber in them cleans food particles from your teeth, plus they’re full of antioxidants that help your mouth and your body. Dairy provides calcium for healthy teeth and bones, and unsweetened coffee and tea – as well as sugar-free gum – promote the flow of saliva, which keeps your mouth moist and washes away bacteria.
- Drink tap water: Most people now drink bottled water, but they may be missing minerals that they need for healthy teeth. Most municipalities now fluoridate their water, so drinking some tap water each day can help remineralize your teeth.
- Get advice from your dentist: Your dentist is a wealth of information on good dental health, so ask them for advice on improving your oral hygiene regimen.
Cavities and gum disease aren’t facts of life anymore. They’re both completely preventable, and good oral health can also improve your physical health.
Can My Cavities Be Treated?
If you develop one or more cavities, your dentist can treat them and restore function to the tooth. The sooner you seek dental treatment, though, the better the outcome will be. If you have a cavity, your dentist will probably recommend one of the following treatments:
- Filling: If you have a small hole in your tooth, then your dentist may recommend a filling. Depending on the tooth’s location and the size of the cavity, there are several filling options available, but your dentist will recommend your best option. A filling can usually be installed in one office visit.
- Crown: If your cavity has spread and you now need a large filling, your dentist may recommend a dental crown. Also called a dental cap, a crown is used in place of a large filling because large fillings have a high failure rate. A crown may require two office visits to complete.
- Root Canal: If your tooth decay has spread to the interior of your tooth, you may need a root canal, which can take up to three office visits. Your dentist will remove the decayed area as well as the pulp, the tooth root, and the nerve. The area will be disinfected and cleansed, and then the root will be sealed. The crown goes on top of the hull of the tooth, and your tooth should be fully functional again. Since a crown is custom-matched to your tooth’s size, shape, and shade, it will look and function like your natural tooth.
Advances in dentistry have made additional options available, so if you want information on additional treatments for your cavities, ask your dentist.
The best method for avoiding cavities and tooth decay is cavity avoidance, so make a plan for good oral hygiene and stick to it without fail. By maintaining good oral health, you’ll ensure that your teeth will last a lifetime without the need for artificial teeth and invasive dental procedures. You’ll also ensure that you have the best physical health that you can.
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