Saliva is your body's best mechanism for fighting the destructive forces of acids formed by plaque. Saliva acts as a buffer and remineralizing agent. Sugarless gum is one way to stimulate the flow of saliva in your mouth in between brushings.
The best way to prevent cavities, however, is to brush and floss on a regular basis. Fluoride, a natural substance which also helps remineralize the tooth structure, is used in community water systems and is a main ingredient of many toothpastes. If you are at medium to high risk for cavities, your dentist may recommend special high concentration fluoride gels, mouth rinses, or dietary fluoride supplements. You may even receive a treatment of professional strength anti-cavity varnish, or sealants, which are thin, plastic coatings that provide an extra barrier against food and debris.
While everyone is susceptible to cavities, people with a lot of fillings have a higher chance of developing tooth decay. Children and senior citizens are the two groups at highest risk for cavities. Heredity may play a major role in how susceptible you are to the formation of a cavity. For example, tooth structure, size, and shape of the tooth, may be passed down through many generations. This includes deep pits and grooves which are ideal "plaque traps".
Many cavities originate in the hard-to-clean areas between teeth, like fissures and pits, the edges in the tooth crown and gaps between teeth.
Children under the age of 6 should only use a pea-sized dab of toothpaste on their brush and should spit out as much as possible. The reason for this is that children are most sensitive to higher levels of fluoride.
Common symptoms of a possible cavity may include:
- A painful toothache.
- Higher sensitivity in your teeth to hot or cold temperatures, liquids, or foods.
- The presence of decay such as white spots.
- Tooth discolorations.
Often, people develop cavities without any pain or other symptoms. That's why it's so important to schedule regular, routine visits with your dentist.
Left untreated, cavities can lead to more serious problems such as infection of the core of your tooth (pulp) or root canal, permanent deterioration, and even loss of the tooth itself.
Avoid frequent consumption of high sugar foods, especially sticky foods because the longer the food stays on your teeth and gums, the greater the likelihood a cavity will form. Healthy snacks that are low in sugar include white milk, fresh fruits, raw vegetables, dark breads, whole grain and enriched cereals, sugar free candies, gum and other snacks. High sugar foods are best eaten with a regular meal.