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Dental Associates of Northern Virginia - Potomac
2010 Opitz Boulevard, # D, Woodbridge, VA 22191

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How to Prevent Cavities

People are rarely ever happy to hear a dentist say they have a cavity. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to prevent most cavities. Practicing good dental hygiene and following the tips below can help you avoid hearing, “You have a cavity,” from your dentist. Avoiding cavities will also help prevent overall health problems related to poor oral health.

A cavity is a small hole that forms in a tooth’s enamel. It can grow larger over time without treatment and reach the dentin, the tooth’s middle layer, and finally the pulp. Small cavities that just affect the enamel are easy for dentists to repair and they rarely cause a person pain. It’s important to get regular dental exams every six months so your dentist can catch the cavity early.

Cavities form when the acid present in plaque eats away at tooth enamel. Plaque is the sticky, yellowish film that forms on teeth after you eat or drink. If you remove plaque by brushing twice a day and between teeth by flossing, there is less of a chance of a cavity forming.

Easy Ways to Prevent Cavities

Cavities are very common; the Center for Disease Control says over 90 percent of Americans over age 20 have at least one cavity in their mouth. Tooth decay is one of the most common infectious diseases that is largely preventable. Dentists make these suggestions that would make cavities less common:

1. Practice Good Dental Care Daily

Brush teeth at least two times a day for two minutes at a time. Be sure to clean every tooth surface, including the front, back and tops of your teeth. Use a fluoride toothpaste and a soft toothbrush. Floss your teeth to clean in between them once a day. Finish with a fluoride mouth rinse or an antibacterial one that helps control plaque.

2. See Your Dentist Twice a Year

See a dentist every six months for a routine exam. If you have a cavity, your dentist can catch it early, when a simple filling is enough to restore the tooth. You can also have a professional cleaning and learn if your at-home oral care routine is effective at preventing cavities.

3. Ask Your Dentist About a Fluoride Rinse

If you are at a high risk for cavities, your dentist may recommend a topical fluoride application. It can strengthen your teeth and make them more able to resist decay. It takes about four to six hours to soak into your teeth and offer long-term protection.

4. Get Dental Sealants

A dentist can brush a thin coating on the chewing surface of your molars. This keeps bacteria out of the pits and fissures on the top of the teeth, which are challenging to keep clean. Sealants can provide up to 10 years of protection.

5. Avoid Sticky Candies and Excess Sweets

When you eat caramels, taffy and other sticky sweets, they stick to your teeth. Food stuck in your mouth produces an acid that breaks down tooth enamel. Also avoid carbonated drinks with sugar as these can remain on your teeth unless you brush or rinse your mouth with water afterward or chew sugarless gum.

If you want something for dessert, choose an apple or cheese. Apples will naturally clean teeth and hard cheese, like cheddar, will help strengthen tooth enamel. Another alternative is plain yogurt with fresh strawberries. Both are teeth-friendly foods.

6. Drink Tap Water

While some bottled water may contain fluoride, it does not have as much as municipal water with fluoride. The optimal level for fluoride in water is 0.7-1.2 part per million. If you love a particular brand of bottled water, check the label for the fluoride content or call the phone number listed if they mention the water is fluoridated.

Common Cavity Treatments

Whichever treatment is right for you, your dentist will make sure to numb the area first so you don’t feel pain. He or she will suggest one of these treatments based on the extent of the decay.

Dental Fillings

Dentists fill cavities by making certain all the decay is removed from the hole. Then, they fill the hole with one of several materials, like an amalgam (metal) material, glass ionomer, white composite resin, ceramic or gold. Your dentist will discuss your options, which depend on the size of the cavity, its location and your preference for appearance and cost.

Dental Crowns

Crowns, also called caps, are hollowed out artificial coverings for teeth. They are custom made to match the surrounding teeth and usually made of porcelain, porcelain over metal or gold. Dentists use crown to provide teeth which extra strength when the tooth’s structure is weak from having a large cavity filled. You would also need a crown after having a root canal procedure.

Root Canal Procedures

Your dentist will recommend a root canal procedure when a cavity becomes so large that it infects the inside of the tooth where the nerves and blood vessels are. It can be very painful, but a root canal will eliminate the pain. Dentists remove the tooth’s pulp and fill the inside of the tooth with a filling material. You have to get a crown to cover the tooth afterward, otherwise, the tooth will be weak and eventually break.

Dental decay is one is the most common chronic health problems in the world. There is a great deal of research finding innovative ways to address the problem. At the University of Washington, researchers are developing a way to treat cavities in their earliest stages by rebuilding tooth enamel naturally with a preventative product for daily use.

Until this and other innovative ideas are available, the best defense we have is following the cavity prevention tips above. An affordable dentist in Woodbridge can help you with your cavity prevention efforts.

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Dental Associates of Northern Virginia - Potomac

2010 Opitz Boulevard, # D, Woodbridge, VA 22191

(703) 595-2887