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.
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.
- Make this part of your routine each morning and before bed.
- If you incorporate tooth brushing into your regular routine it will be easy to remember to do it.
- Proper tooth brushing only takes a few minutes, so even very busy people can find the time.
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.
- The size and shape of the brush should allow you to reach all areas of your mouth and all surfaces of your teeth
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months
- If your toothbrush is becoming frayed, it may be necessary to replace it sooner. A frayed toothbrush will not be very effective in cleaning your teeth.
3. Use a pea sized amount of toothpaste
Make sure you are using a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride helps to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay.
- Small children can’t have as much fluoride as adults. Talk to your dentist about an appropriate amount of fluoride toothpaste to use on your child’s toothbrush.
- You will want your child to get the cavity fighting benefits of fluoride without getting too much of it.
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. If you’re bearing down with the brush or notice that your brushes fray quickly, you are likely using too much pressure.
- Start by brushing the front surfaces of all of your teeth.
- Use small side to side strokes.
- After you have brushed the front surface of all of your teeth, move on to the chewing surface and the backs of your teeth.
- To clean the inside surface of your front teeth, tip the brush vertically and use several up and down strokes.
- Make sure to brush along the gum line as well.
- You should also brush your tongue to remove bacteria and improve your breath.
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.
- Mouthwash cannot be used in place of regular brushing and flossing. If you find you cannot brush your teeth after a meal, it is a good idea to rinse with mouthwash to kill bacteria and prevent plaque.
- Mouthwashes that contain alcohol may dry out your mouth, which could actually promote further bacterial growth. Look for a fluoridated, alcohol-free mouthwash.
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