15 Factors That Decrease Your Risk of Developing Tooth Decay

Tooth decay risk factors

Top Tips for Protecting Tooth Enamel

Tooth decay can be a stubborn foe, but you’re not powerless when it comes to cavity prevention. In fact, the majority of cavities are entirely avoidable; all you need to do is learn what works when it comes to reducing your tooth decay risk factors.

Here are 15 things you can start doing right now to protect your smile from cavities.

1. Thorough Brushing

Brush using this ADA-recommended technique, and don’t feel silly about setting a two-minute timer to ensure you’re brushing for long enough. Pay especially close attention to your back teeth, which are the hardest to reach and thus are more likely to develop cavities. The minimum recommendation is twice-daily brushing, but you can also brush after a big lunch or after having a snack.

2. Flossing Daily

Flossing is equally important in preventing dental cavities as brushing. In fact, brushing really only removes surface plaque, whereas flossing gets deep between the teeth, all the way to the gums. Floss at least once a day, ideally before your bedtime brushing, but feel encouraged to floss whenever you feel stuck food after a meal or snack.

3. Straight Teeth

Straight teeth are much easier to keep clean than crowded, crooked teeth. Food is less likely to get stuck, not to mention your toothbrush and string floss will be much more effective. If you’re interested in straightening your smile, Dr. Hite’s wife works as an orthodontist across the street from our practice.

4. Proper Oral Posture

Proper tongue and jaw posture is a lesser-known factor in dental health that not many people know about. Proper tongue posture supports natural speech and promotes a well-aligned bite. Oral habits like tongue thrusting and mouth breathing, or untreated TMJ disorders, can cause teeth to grind against each other, which leads to enamel erosion and a greater risk of decay.

5. Balanced pH Levels

Foods and beverages can drastically change the pH level of your mouth. Tooth enamel begins to erode at a pH of 5.5, and as this study shows, many popular juices, sports drinks, and sodas are quite corrosive. Stomach acid from acid reflux can also erode and crumble tooth enamel, especially on the molars. Be sure to get treatment if you experience chronic acid reflux.

6. Healthy Gut Bacteria

Your gut health shares a strong connection to every facet of your health, from your brain to your teeth. Supporting healthy gut bacteria will bolster healthy cultures of oral bacteria. The boost to your digestive health will also help to improve nutrient absorption from food and alleviate digestive upset, like acid reflux. Consuming fermented foods and drinks like kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, or kombucha and taking a daily probiotic is highly recommended. 

7. Adequate Saliva Flow

Saliva neutralizes acids and removes bacteria, plaque, and food debris from teeth. Drinking water, chewing xylitol gum, limiting dehydrating drinks and foods, and using a mouth spray designed for xerostomia are all effective solutions. If you have chronic xerostomia, seek help from your dentist.

8. Nutritious, Varied Foods

A healthy diet is just as important for your smile as it is for your physical and mental health. You can still enjoy your favorite treats, but focus your main meals around plenty of vegetables, lean protein, fruits, nuts, and as many whole or minimally processed foods as possible. Remember that variety is also important to ensure you get satisfactory vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

9. Daily Vitamins

Studies strongly support the importance of vitamins and minerals in oral health. Vitamin D is especially important for cavity prevention, but calcium, vitamins A and K12, and magnesium are also necessary for strong tooth enamel. Start taking a multivitamin, but we recommend checking with your primary care provider before adding additional supplements.

10. Stay Well Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day encourages saliva, cleanses your tooth enamel, and keeps the soft tissues in your mouth hydrated and healthy. Water also dilutes acids, sugars, and other substances, which reduces their impact on tooth enamel.

11. Wait Before Brushing

Exposure to acids, sugars, and starches leaves tooth enamel soft and vulnerable. Brushing soft tooth enamel can cause damage that invites tooth decay to develop. After eating or drinking, wait about 30 minutes before brushing. For really acidic and sweet snacks, such as cola or sour candy, waiting up to an hour is safe.

12. Cheese After a Meal

Studies show that eating cheese at the end of a meal or snack protects tooth enamel by stimulating saliva production, reduces cariogenic bacteria, and coats the tooth enamel in a protective layer of calcium and phosphorus. 

13. Sweets in One Sitting

Rather than grazing on sweet or acidic foods and beverages throughout the day, finish them in one sitting instead. This habit limits how long your teeth are exposed to enamel-harming ingredients while allowing you to enjoy your morning coffee or post-dinner sweet treat.

14. Crunchy Snacks

Crunchy snacks are not only satisfying, but they also provide a scrubbing-like effect for your teeth. Fresh produce like sliced apples or vegetable trays with carrots and celery are simple and unprocessed. Here are a few other crunchy but healthy snack ideas

15. Routine Checkups

Make it a point to see your dentist twice yearly for an evaluation and cleaning. These preventive care appointments are paramount in the early diagnosis of tooth decay and several other oral care issues, like gum disease. Professional cleanings are also necessary to remove all built-up plaque and tartar that a toothbrush can’t.

When was your last oral health wellness visit?

If it’s been close to or over six months since your last checkup and cleaning, right now is a good time to schedule a visit. Even if you haven’t seen a dentist in several years or have some dental anxiety, rest assured the Hite Family Dentistry team will help you feel comfortable and relaxed in their welcoming, judgment-free dental practice in Edwardsville, IL. Book your appointment today by calling our office or using this online request form.