Reduce your risk of cavities
I get told at least once a day by one of my patients that they have “soft teeth” and that is why they keep getting cavities. “Soft teeth” are for the most part a myth (with a couple of very rare exceptions). While your genetics are one small factor in the cavity equation, there are a lot of other things you can do to pretty much eliminate your risk of getting cavities. If you can follow these simple rules, say good bye to cavities and many of those uncomfortable visits to the dentist.
- Watch how often you consume sugar or other carbohydrates (breads, pastas, crackers, chips). In dentistry the total amount of sugar you consume doesn’t matter nearly as much as how often you consume it. Every single time you eat sugar it drops the pH in your mouth to a level that promotes cavities for about 20 minutes. If you’re taking a sip of soda / sweet tea / sweetened coffee / etc every 15 minutes then your mouth is in a state that actively promotes cavities for the entire day! The best thing to do is eat 3-4 meals a day and have one snack, which you eat at one time. Avoid everything else except for water in between.
- Watch how often you consume acidic foods. This is the exact same concept as what we just talked about with sugar. This great chart from Alkalife.com shows you many of the common foods that will upset the pH balance in your mouth. A lot of things that you wouldn’t expect, can cause the pH in your mouth to go acidic. A pH level below 5.5 starts to break down the enamel on your teeth. Now I’m not saying never consume any of these items. I am saying that you should watch how often you consume them. A good rule of thumb is to limit your eating and drinking (other than water) to three meals and two snack times during the day. This gives you the best combination of small meals throughout the day without also keeping your teeth out of that danger zone. Sit down, eat, and then be done.
- Brush and floss your teeth. This removes the plaque and bacteria on your teeth that help create cavities on your teeth. You want to brush for a full two minutes twice a day and floss once a day.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste. While there is a lot of controversy about fluoride in our water supply, fluoride in your toothpaste is applied directly to your teeth and very little goes to the rest of your body. This can reduce your risk of cavities significantly as it helps to repair areas that acid have damaged as long as you brush for the correct amount of time (two minutes).
- Try chewing sugarless gum or using sugar free mints. Xylitol based products are the best for this. Xylitol is a sweetener that has cavity fighting properties. The increased flow of saliva in your mouth protects against cavities.
Reduce or eliminate your risk of gum disease
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, happens when the dental plaque on your teeth calcifies and becomes rock hard on the teeth below the gums. This is very similar to how barnacles form in the ocean, and they look pretty similar too (nice mental picture there right?). Bacteria start living in these crevices and you get a low level infection in your gums that your body tries to fight. You are the one who loses in this fight. The bone starts being destroyed around the teeth which can eventually lead to your teeth falling out.
So that was the bad news. Here is the good news… There are only three easy rules to follow in order to reduce your risk of gum disease to almost zero (unless you’ve got some sort of rare underlying medical condition that causes a highly accelerated rate of bone loss).
- Brush twice a day for two minutes
- Floss once a day (literally takes 30 seconds)
- Don’t smoke
Yep that’s it. If you do these things, it almost guaranteed that you won’t get gum disease. If you already have gum disease, get it treated at the dentist and then follow these three rules. It won’t come back.
Avoid Breaking Your Teeth
There are a couple of different things that can cause teeth to break.
- Bad eating habits – Don’t chew ice or other hard foods routinely. This is extremely destructive for your teeth. The most common foods that I’ve seen people break teeth on are nuts, popcorn kernels, ice, hard candy, and bones in meat. On the same note, don’t use your teeth to bite your nails, open bottles, etc. Teeth are for eating!
- Grinding – Many people grind at night and don’t even know they do it. If you see wear on the edges of your teeth, you are a likely a grinder. Wear a nightguard and you’ll reduce the damage this does. We have a guide on how you can make your own custom night guard at home at a significant cost savings over the dentist. Alternatively, use an online dental lab with a self impression kit.
- Avoid getting cavities. Teeth that have never had fillings rarely break. The average lifetime cost of a tooth that gets a cavity is nearly $2000! If you do get cavities, get them taken care of before they get big. Small cavities are much less destructive on teeth than moderate or large size cavities.
- Acid exposure. Avoid sodas, sucking on lemons, energy drinks or any other acidic food/drink on a regular basis. The acid causes the enamel to break down over time which can eventually cause chipping and breakage. Combine this with cavities, or grinding and you can really do some damage.
Reduce Your Risk of Oral Cancer
- About 2/3’s of cases of oral cancer are attributed to tobacco use (both smoking and smokeless tobacco).
- Alcohol use (especially excessive and combined with tobacco) also causes a higher risk for oral cancer.
- If you’re at high risk, get regular check-ups and make sure your dentist is checking for oral cancer. The most common sites are on the side of the tongue, floor of the mouth, tonsils, and where you hold your smokeless tobacco in your mouth
- Oral cancer can usually be effectively treated if caught early (as with most cancers). Your dentist is the most qualified person to catch this early.