We’re all told to avoid sugar in order to prevent cavities. As Halloween evening approaches, there is candy everywhere…. And most of us just can’t resist! Cutting sugar out of your diet isn’t a sure way prevent cavities, but consistent and proper oral care routines will really make a difference.
Here are some tips from the hygienist at Citizen Dental Hygiene about how to protect yours and your kids teeth and gums from acid erosion, which results in the tooth decay that forms a cavity.
1. Drink water!
Drinking water will go a long way to help protect teeth from sugars and acids. Rinsing your mouth out by swishing water around after eating candy will help to wash away some of that sugar and get rid of small particles of food and candy. Drinking water will help maintain the pH of your mouth, keeping your mouth’s ecosystem functioning at its best. Hydration is also important for saliva production, and saliva is our body’s natural enamel protection and cleaning system.
2. It’s not about how much candy you eat, it’s about how often you eat it.
A good rule to follow is to eat sweets at mealtime and not several times throughout the day. Snacking on candy all day is not recommended, as it causes several acid attacks to the enamel, instead of one single one. Remember that it’s not about how much candy you’re eating in total, but about how many different times the sugar is in your mouth to attack your teeth.
3. Now let’s talk about brushing…
It is important to remember not to brush right after any meal, and especially right after eating sugar. Your saliva needs time to work its magic in protecting your enamel first. It is recommended that you wait half an hour after eating sugary foods and beverages before brushing. If you brush immediately after eating, you are hurting your enamel rather than helping it.
It is recommended that you always brush your teeth right before bed. By brushing for 2 minutes with a remineralizing toothpaste, you are supporting the enamel of your tooth so it can stay strong against acid erosion. Brushing at night before bed also stimulates saliva, further protecting your enamel. At night, our bodies slow down our saliva production, resulting in a dry mouth. Dry mouths greatly increase the risk of decay, resulting in cavities.
4. And you guessed it… FLOSS.
Brushing doesn’t reach all of the tight spots in the mouth where the sugars and bacteria hide. Flossing will disrupt the bacteria that lurks below the gum line, which will also help keep your breath fresher! It’s the acid produced by the bacteria that feed on the sugar that causes that bad breath smell, and causes acid erosion. Making sure this bacteria and acid doesn’t build up will prevent cavities from forming. As with brushing, wait until your saliva has had time to work before flossing so you don’t harm the enamel.
5. Chewing sugar-free gum with Xylitol or using a mouth rinse.
Some people are just more prone to cavities than others. All of us are different, as is the ecosystem in our mouths. If you know that you are especially prone to cavities, take a few extra precautions.
One recommendation from dentists is to chew sugar-free gum with xylitol after eating sweets in order to stimulate saliva production. Xylitol is a natural sweetener often used in place of sugar in sugar-free gums, and has proven to increase saliva flow.
There are also a variety of herbal sprays and rinses that help stimulate saliva flow. For example, at our clinic we sell Gaia Fresh Breath herbal spray, and My Magic Mud Charcoal and Xylitol mouth rinse. Both would be great to use after a sugar binge so get your saliva flowing.
Another recommendation is to use a cavity-prevention mouth rinse, containing fluoride which will remineralize and strengthen your enamel. Keeping your enamel strong will defend it against acid erosion.
6. Visit your dental hygienist regularly for preventative cleanings!
Even with a consistent and proactive at home care routine, it is still important to visit your dental hygienist every 6 months for a cleaning. Any plaque or tartar build up needs to be cleaned away, which can’t be done with an ordinary toothbrush or floss at home. Plaque and tartar are what trap the acids produced by the bacteria that feed on the sugars against your enamel, causing the acid to dig into your teeth, creating a cavity. Keeping your teeth free of plaque and tartar will stop acid erosion of creating cavities.
Haven’t seen a hygienist in a while? That’s okay. We promise a non-judgemental atmosphere (we eat a LOT of candy sometimes too…) where we can help you get back on track with your oral health. Request an appointment here, or give us a call at 403-457-0250. If you have cavities, we can get you a filling or put you through our Cavity Management Program to keep them in check. Our Karma program is a great start, and we also offer financing for all patients. Questions? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.