Tooth decay is caused by plaque buildup on your teeth. Plaque forms when sugars in your mouth attract bacteria. Plaque is very acidic and causes the enamel of your teeth to erode away. This is the first part of cavity formation. As a cavity becomes bigger, bacteria from your mouth can invade the pulp of the tooth (the tooth's living tissue) and cause inflammation that can progress into an infection known as an abscess. This process can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, not to mention very expensive dental bills for treatment. However, you can prevent tooth decay by practicing regular tooth brushing, flossing, eating the right foods, and seeing your dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups.
Brushing Your Teeth Properly
1. Set up a brushing schedule. Ideally you should brush your teeth after every meal, but you should try to do so at least twice a day: once after breakfast and once before bed.
2. Use a soft bristled toothbrush. The size and shape depend on your mouth size, but most dentists recommend electric toothbrushes that have a round shape.
3. Use a pea sized amount of toothpaste. Make sure you are using a fluoride toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association. Fluoride helps to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay.
4. Brush all surfaces of your teeth. You will want to place your brush at a 45 degree angle to your teeth and gums as you brush. Don't apply too much pressure, or you could damage your gums.
5. Rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash. Mouthwash can be used to help prevent tooth decay and cavities, reduce plaque buildup, and reduce your likelihood of diseases such as gingivitis. Look for a mouthwash containing fluoride to help prevent or reduce tooth decay.
Flossing Your Teeth
1. Floss your teeth at least once a day.
2. Start to floss by breaking off an 18 inch piece of dental floss.
3. Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion.
4. Curve the floss into a C shape when you reach the gums.
5. Try using floss picks, dental picks or wooden plaque removers if you find using floss difficult.
Maintaining a Tooth Healthy Diet
1. Avoid sugary candies, sweets, starches, and refined carbohydrates.
2. Drink fruit juices and carbonated soft drinks sparingly.
3. Limit consumption of acidic foods. Acids from foods can erode enamel just as much as acids from soft drinks.
4. Drink tap water and green/black teas. Tap water is fortified with fluoride in most countries.
5. Eat plenty of fiber rich vegetables and fruits.
6. Eat dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.
7. Chew sugarless gum.
8. Use products formulated for dry mouth.
9. Talk to a doctor if you have frequent heartburn, acid reflux, or an eating disorder.