Although dental restoration technology has made great strides, any type of filling or device is more likely to need additional work in the future than is an intact tooth. Good oral and dental hygiene can help keep your teeth intact by avoiding cavities and tooth decay. Follow these tips to help prevent cavities:

  • Brush after eating or drinking. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and ideally after every meal, using fluoride-containing toothpaste. To clean between your teeth, floss or use an interdental cleaner. If you can't brush after eating, at least try to rinse your mouth with water.
  • Rinse your mouth. If your dentist feels you have a high risk of developing cavities, he or she may recommend that you use a mouth rinse with fluoride.
  • Visit your dentist regularly. Get professional tooth cleanings and regular oral exams, which can help prevent problems or spot them early. Your dentist can recommend a schedule that's best for your situation.
  • Consider dental sealants. A sealant is a protective plastic coating that's applied to the chewing surface of back teeth — sealing off the grooves and crannies that tend to collect food in the teeth most likely to get cavities. The sealant protects tooth enamel from plaque and acid. Sealants can help both children and adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommends sealants for all school-age children. Sealants last up to 10 years before they need to be replaced, though they need to be checked regularly to ensure they're still intact.
  • Drink some tap water. Adding fluoride to public water supplies has helped decrease tooth decay significantly. If you drink only bottled water that doesn’t contain fluoride, you'll miss out on its benefits. Be sure to drink some tap water, too.
  • Avoid frequent snacking and sipping. Whenever you eat or drink something other than water, you help your mouth bacteria create acids that can destroy your tooth enamel. If you snack or drink throughout the day, your teeth are under constant attack.
  • Eat tooth-healthy foods. Some foods and beverages are better for your teeth than others. Avoid foods that get stuck in grooves and pits of your teeth for long periods, such as chips, candy or cookies. Instead, eat food that protects your teeth, such as cheese, which some research shows may help prevent cavities, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, which increase saliva flow, and unsweetened coffee, tea and sugar-free gum, which help wash away food particles.
  • Consider fluoride treatments. Your dentist may recommend a fluoride treatment, especially if you aren't getting enough fluoride through fluoridated drinking water and other sources. In a fluoride treatment, your dentist applies concentrated fluoride to your teeth for several minutes. You can also use fluoridated toothpaste or mouthwash.
  • Ask about antibacterial treatments. If you're especially vulnerable to tooth decay — for example, because of a medical condition — your dentist may recommend special antibacterial mouth rinses or other treatments to help cut down on harmful bacteria in your mouth.

Check with your dentist to see which methods are best for you.

Apr. 28, 2011