November 28, 2021 by Gentle Dental 0 Comments

Cavity Prevention: How to stop tooth decay turning into a cavity

Tooth cavities are a common problem, but they are also preventable. A cavity is formed by permanent damage being caused to the hard surface of a tooth. Bacteria in the mouth, snacking on certain foods, sugary drinks and poor oral hygiene can cause these small holes to form.

Cavities are a common health problem for teenagers, and adults, however children and even babies can get cavities if parents don’t look after their teeth.

Left untreated cavities will usually only get worse. Cavities can cause infection, tooth decay and tooth loss. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to prevent your teeth from getting cavities.

Types of cavities

Cavities are caused by decaying areas on the surface of a tooth that develop into holes. There are different types of cavities:

  • Smooth surface cavities: These usually occur on the sides of a tooth. Smooth surface cavities can be caused by not brushing or flossing in between each tooth.
  • Root cavities: These occur near the bottom of the tooth enamel close to the gums. These can be caused by bacteria in the mouth and poor oral hygiene habits.
  • Pit and Fissure cavities: These occur on the grooves in the surface of your teeth. Some teeth are more prone to cavities if food sits for a long time on the top of the teeth.
How do cavities form?

Bacteria cover all areas of our mouths including our teeth, gums, tongue and walls of our mouth. Not all types of bacteria are bad but cavities are formed when bacteria that use the sugars in foods make acid and that acid leads to tooth decay.

This is why sugary foods and snacks can cause cavities. It’s also why flossing and brushing regularly is so important. Dental plaque forms in the mouth naturally. These good oral hygiene habits help rid the mouth of the bad bacteria that hang around on plaque and the foods they use to attack our teeth.

Can you prevent a cavity from forming?

Teeth that have been exposed to acid – through a lack of brushing or too much sugar – usually develop white spots where our enamel starts to lose minerals from bacteria. This is a sign that early decay is happening and the tooth may get a cavity if the health of the tooth doesn’t improve.

Enamel can actually repair itself through minerals found in saliva and fluoride. However, if tooth decay continues, the enamel will lose more minerals and a hole, or cavity will form.

What are the symptoms of a tooth cavity?

You may not have any symptoms of early tooth decay, which is why it’s so important to brush and floss your teeth. As tooth decay gets larger you may experience:

  • Toothache that comes and goes in the same spot
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Sharp pain when you eat or drink sweet or hot or cold items
  • White or brown stains or spots on the surface of a tooth
  • Pain when biting down
  • Visible holes in your tooth
What oral hygiene habits will help prevent cavities?

Preventing cavities largely comes down to practising good oral hygiene habits and avoiding a diet high in sugar. Here are some ways you can improve the health of your teeth and prevent cavities.

  • Brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day. Brushing your teeth twice a day is important for dislodging food and plaque from your mouth. For best results use a fluoride toothpaste as fluoride helps to rid your mouth of acids and strengthens your enamel.
  • Along with brushing you should floss in-between your teeth. Cavities can form on the sides of teeth in places where your toothbrush may not be able to reach.
  • Rinse with mouthwash. Mouthwash can be helpful for neutralising sugars in the mouth.
  • Get dental sealants. Some teeth are more prone to cavities on the surface of the teeth because the natural grooves can trap food more easily. Sealants can help seal off the areas that would sometimes get cavities more easily. Sealants are a good idea for school-aged children and can last up to seven years.
  • Visit your dentist every six months. Just because your teeth look and feel healthy doesn’t mean they are. A professional examination and teeth cleanings will help spot any problems that you can’t see just by looking in the mirror.
  • Drink fluoridated tap water. Many cities in New Zealand have fluoridated water supplies which have been shown to help reduce tooth decay. Switch from bottled water to a fluoridated water supply if you can.
  • Avoid frequent snacking and sipping. Sugar drinks can create acids that destroy tooth enamel while foods like nuts, chips and pretzels can easily get lodged in hard-to-reach places. Snacking less and swapping water for soft drink will improve the health of your teeth.
  • Eat tooth-healthy foods. Some foods are actually good for your teeth, gums and jaw. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables increases saliva, and drinking unsweetened coffee, tea and water help wash away food particles.
Prevent cavities by booking a dental appointment today

If you think you may have a cavity or haven’t visited a dentist in more than six months the best thing to do is book an appointment with a dentist. At Gentle Dental all of our dentists are highly qualified and experts in preventative care. Book an appointment today.

August 26, 2021 by Gentle Dental 0 Comments

The Best Oral Hygiene Habits for Healthy Teeth

Adopting good oral hygiene habits is essential for keeping teeth and gums healthy. Simple dental habits like brushing and flossing must be done correctly to protect your mouth from plaque and bacteria. Follow these oral hygiene habits for healthy teeth.

Brush your teeth twice a day for good oral hygiene

Dentists recommend brushing your teeth twice a day to rid the mouth of plaque and bacteria. Skipping a brushing session can result in the buildup of food and debris and cause bad breath. Brush for two minutes morning and night to thoroughly clean your mouth.

Try to avoid brushing directly after eating. If you have consumed acidic foods, wait at least 30 minutes before brushing. Citric foods can soften tooth enamel, and brushing too soon can damage it while it’s weak.

Brush your mouth gently. Most dentists recommend using a soft to medium toothbrush as these are hard enough to remove food but soft enough on gums. There is no need to use a toothbrush with stiff bristles and if your mouth feels agitated after brushing, try switching to a brush with softer bristles.

Brush your whole mouth, including your tongue

If you find it difficult to brush your teeth for two minutes, it could be because you are not doing a thorough enough job. Hold your toothbrush at an angle, and make sure you brush each side of your teeth — front, back, and side to side. Doing a poor job of brushing your teeth can leave behind food and bacteria and won’t keep your teeth protected.

Brush your tongue each time you brush your mouth. If you don’t like the feeling of tooth bristles against your tongue, a tongue scraper is a good option. Brushing your tongue also helps improve your breath.

Some parts of your mouth can be hard to reach. If you have a bar on the back of your teeth to keep your teeth aligned, make sure you are brushing behind it. Switching to an electric toothbrush can be helpful. The smaller head may be able to clean and polish parts of your mouth a manual toothbrush head struggles to reach.

Use a fluoride toothpaste

There are many brands of natural, whitening, and flavoured toothpaste on the market. Whichever toothpaste you choose, make sure it contains fluoride. Unfortunately, many natural brands exclude fluoride from their ingredients, and this leaves your teeth unprotected.

Some people have concerns over the safety of fluoride. However, fluoride is a natural substance found in the air, sea, soil, plants and freshwater. Therefore, there is nothing unnatural about using fluoride toothpaste.

Fluoride helps protect our teeth from decay by:

  1. Strengthening the surface of the tooth
  2. Preventing the growth of bacteria which causes cavities
  3. Repairing the early stages of tooth decay

Whenever we eat and drink, we increase the levels of acidity in our mouths. Acid strips minerals from our teeth and leads to tooth decay. Drinking fluoridated water and brushing with fluoride toothpaste increases the amount of fluoride in our saliva and mouth and acts as a repair kit to neutralise the effects of acid. If you live in an area that does not have fluoride added to its water supply or drink bottled water, use fluoride toothpaste to keep your teeth healthy.

Floss your teeth at least three times a week

Brushing twice a day is effective at removing bacteria on the surface of our teeth but not so excellent at removing food and debris that gets stuck between the teeth. If you aren’t flossing, try adding it to your oral hygiene routine at least three times a week. From there, you can build up to flossing once a day.

If you find flossing uncomfortable, a floss made from softer, wider material may be more comfortable for you. How you floss is also essential. Dentists recommend holding a strip of floss at both ends and gently pushing it down between your teeth.

  • Push the floss down to the gum line and then hug one side of the tooth in an up-down motion.
  • Leave the floss in between the same teeth and push it up and down on the side of the opposite tooth.

This technique is more effective at removing plaque than just pushing the floss up and down.

Understand how mouthwash can help protect your teeth

Mouthwash is not an essential part of your oral hygiene routine. However, you  can use mouthwash in addition to brushing and flossing to keep the mouth healthy. The mouth wash ingredients contain antimicrobials that help kill bacteria, reduce plaque and halitosis, which causes bad breath.

Mouthwash is helpful in alkalising the PH of your saliva. You can use it after eating or drinking sugary or acidic foods. It reduces the erosive effect that acid has on teeth and promotes enamel mineralisation.

Some types of mouthwash can cause local irritation in the mouth. If you find a particular kind of mouthwash too harsh, use it less frequently or switch to a brand with gentler ingredients.

Be wary of the food and drink you consume 

Sugar converts to acid in the mouth, which has a detrimental effect on tooth enamel. Cutting down on the amount of sugar and sugary drink you consume is good for your teeth. Crisps and nuts can quickly get stuck in between your teeth and can be hard to remove. In general, cutting down on processed food is good for your teeth.

Tea and coffee can also stain the enamel on your teeth over time. While you don’t have to eliminate these foods, be mindful of how often you consume them. Whole foods are less likely to get stuck between teeth, and carrot sticks and cucumbers are easy to snack on without compromising the health of your teeth.

See your dentist at least twice a year

Without regular visits to the dentist, it’s impossible to know the proper health of your teeth. Your teeth and gums may look fine but hide problems that are hard to see. Plaque buildup can eat away at your teeth over time. Make sure you are booking regular visits to your dentists so that they can check the status of your teeth and gums.

Your dentist can spot the buildup of plaque,  which, left untreated, can lead to gingivitis and other tooth problems. They can also spot potential problems before they get too bad. Ultimately, seeing your dentist twice a year is the best way to prevent serious tooth problems.

Change your toothbrush regularly

Practicing good toothbrush hygiene is vital for the health of your mouth. Make sure you change your toothbrush or swap the head of your electric toothbrush for a new head regularly. A good rule to follow is changing your toothbrush with the seasons. This means you should update your brush every three months. You should also replace your brush if the bristles become flat or splayed.

After cleaning your teeth, make sure you rinse off your toothbrush and store it in a clean place. Avoid keeping your toothbrush in a closed container or keeping a toothbrush cover on it for long periods. This can encourage bacteria to grow.

At Gentle Dental, our friendly team are experts in keeping your smile healthy. Keep on top of your oral hygiene habits and book an appointment to see us today.