Everyone knows that dental hygiene is crucially important for a number of reasons, yet most of us fail to take adequate care of our teeth and end up developing cavities at some point in our life. Usually, if we floss our teeth regularly, brush a couple of times each day, and get regular cleanings at the dentist’s office, we can manage to keep our gums and teeth relatively healthy.
However, that is not always enough, as dietary factors such as the amount of sugar and sugary drinks we consume can affect our risk for tooth decay. Raw fruits and even some vegetables, ironically, can also contribute to tooth decay due to the natural sugars contained in them.
You might be happy to learn that there are some additional steps we can take to prevent cavities from forming in our teeth and that if you do develop a cavity, there are some natural remedies that can be helpful in slowing its growth.
What is a Cavity?
A tooth cavity is a form of infection caused by bacteria living in the mouth which destroy the material of the tooth by eating into the enamel. All of us have naturally occurring bacteria in our mouths. Bacteria easily accumulate and multiply on the surface of our teeth, especially after we eat a meal. After a while, if not brushed or flossed away from the teeth, bacteria begin to create a sticky film known as plaque. This plaque can eventually harden and become rather difficult to remove without specialized dental tools, so it is essential to remove it early by brushing and flossing, rather than to wait and have it solidify onto the surface enamel of the teeth.
Why is Plaque a Problem?
Dental plaque slowly dissolves the surface enamel of your teeth, which results in tiny pits which gradually grow and develop into small cavities. These cavities will then begin to develop into larger and deeper cavities, which can eat deep into the structure of your tooth or even down to the root, causing serious problems and eventually leading to very painful toothaches.
Who Is Most At Risk of Getting Cavities?
If you have a sweet tooth, you are more likely to be at risk of developing cavities. Foods that cling to your teeth, such as cake, cookies, candy, dried fruits, and even dairy products are in general more likely to cause tooth decay than other foods which contain less sugar or are less sticky. If you snack throughout the day or drink a lot of soda or fruit juice or other sweetened beverage products, you are more likely to develop cavities than folks who snack less often and consume fewer sweetened beverages.
Top 10 Ways to Prevent Cavities
- Avoid sugars, especially refined white sugar. Foods that are heavily sweetened with white refined sugar are very likely to lead to the formation of plaque on your teeth.
- Drink unsweetened black and green tea. These forms of tea can help reduce the buildup of plaque in your mouth and keep bacteria levels lower. Be sure to drink unsweetened tea, or at least teas not sweetened with sugar or corn syrup, as the sweeteners will defeat the purpose! (See above.)
- Eat foods that are healthy for your teeth. Nuts, apples, and cheese are foods that can help break up the plaque that may have accumulated on your teeth from eating other foods. Foods that are high in fiber can also help your mouth produce more saliva, which helps coat the teeth and isolate them from bacteria.
- Chew sugar-free gum. Like the foods mentioned above, sugar free gum helps your mouth create more saliva, and also helps clean plaque and bacteria from the surface of your teeth and gums. This is also a convenient way to clean your mouth after a meal on the go or at work.
- Brush your teeth first thing in the morning. When you sleep, bacteria multiplies in your mouth overnight. In order to cut down the number of these bacteria, it is important to brush in the morning to start the day with a cleaner mouth, which can reduce the buildup of plaque and bacteria which lead to cavities.
- Incorporate more Xylitol. Xylitol is a non-sugar based natural sweetener which can help to prevent the growth of bacteria in the mouth. It is often used in toothpastes for this reason. It can be used as a natural sugar-free sweetener, so foods that contain it can cause less plaque buildup than foods with sugar, while simultaneously reducing bacteria buildup in the mouth. It’s a win-win!
- Consider Oil Pulling. Oil pulling is an ancient technique which can help clean the mouth of harmful bacteria. To do an oil pull, simply swish a spoonful of sesame, sunflower, or coconut oil around in your mouth for about 15 to 20 minutes and then spit it out. In the case of coconut oil, be sure not to spit the oil into your sink, as oil can solidify when it cools and clog the drain. After swishing with oil, your mouth should feel cleaner and you should have fewer bacteria and contaminants in your mouth.
- Snack on organic Licorice. Some substances in licorice have been found to destroy the bacteria which lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Licorice can also help to prevent the formation of oral infections. See, not all candy is bad for you!
- If you must drink carbonated drinks, drink them with a straw. As mentioned above, drinking sweetened (most) soda beverages is generally bad for your teeth due to the sugar content. However, even sparkling water or sugar free sodas contain carbonated water which can weaken enamel over time due to its acidic properties. For these reasons, if you drink a carbonated drink of any kind, it is generally best to do so with a drinking straw rather than from the cup itself. This way the drink can bypass your teeth and do less damage.
- Rinse with Tea Tree (Melaleuca) Oil. This oil has powerful antibacterial properties, but is very strong. To use it as a rinse, dilute a few drops in about 4 ounces of water and swish with it like you would with a regular mouthwash.
So there you have it – 10 things you can do to help prevent the formation of cavities, which could potentially save you a lot of money in dental repairs, and prevent a few toothaches as well! Hopefully you have found these tips helpful and they save you from some pain and expense in the long run. Here’s to healthy teeth!