3 easy tricks to reduce the risk of cavities
SUMMARY: These simple, little-known tips can help fight off tooth decay as well as bad breath.
Posted: May 15, 2014
Tooth decay is one of the most common infectious diseases in the U.S. People of all ages get cavities, even though they are almost 100 percent preventable. Discover these three simple tricks to fight off cavities:
1. Swish water in your mouth after meals
What causes cavities? Or in other words, what triggers your teeth's enamel to erode? Many people will blame sweet treats, which is exactly right. Sugar, a type of carbohydrate, is a leading culprit of tooth decay (carbohydrates are also found in everything from bread to rice to candy bars). However, few people realize that it's not only the amount of sugar one consumes, it's also the length of time that those carbs stay on your teeth. When you eat a meal, food debris may linger in near your back molars and around the gum line for several hours before being broken down by saliva and other liquids. During that time, however, the natural bacteria in your mouth combine with sugars to attack your teeth's protective layer.
To stop the process before it starts, one helpful trick is to swish water in your mouth for at least five seconds after eating a meal or drinking a sugary beverage - coffee included. Think of washing your dishes after chowing down on a bowl of spaghetti. When is the easiest time to rinse the marinara sauce from the bowl - immediately after you have finished, when the sauce is still in liquid form, or four hours later, when the sauce has congealed, sticking to the bowl? Rinse sooner rather than later.
The same holds true for your teeth. By doing rinsing your mouth with water immediately following a meal or snack, the liquid floods out the food particles from your mouth and spurs saliva production, drastically shortening the amount of time acids have to wear down enamel.
2. Chew sugar-free gum after meals
Similarly, chewing sugar-free gum can help prevent tooth decay. The physical act of chewing signals your mouth to produce more saliva, which helps neutralize acids. In this way, gum can also help temporarily mask bad breath. The American Dental Association recommends chewing for five to 20 minutes following meals and snacks to make teeth more resistant to decay.
It's worth pointing out that not all gum is created equal. Sugary bubble gum has the opposite effect of sugarless gum. When purchasing a pack, look for the ingredient called xylitol, a polyphenol that buffers against tooth decay. By chewing gum after a meal, you can promote your oral health while warding off halitosis.
3. Limit mid-meal snacking
If you are constantly eating throughout the day, your teeth become drenched in sugars and don't have any time to repair. Steer clear of snacks at odd hours, such as mid-afternoon and especially before bed. Coffee falls under this category and is a public enemy for teeth, since most coffee drinkers sip all morning long. Either drink it in a single sitting or rinse with water afterwards. Limiting snacking and sipping reduces the number of acids that attack your teeth.
As a reminder, these tips are not a substitute for a regular oral care routine. Rather, they should supplement twice-a-day brushing and daily flossing.