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The three factors involved in dental decay prevention.

Despite what we know about dental decay, how it starts, how it progresses and how it can be treated, the most important aspect is still its prevention.  Once dental decay, or caries, progresses beyond a certain point, the tooth structure is irreversibly lost.  If a tooth needs to be filled (or even removed), any replacement for that part of the tooth, whether it be a filling, a crown, or even an implant will never be as good as what nature created.  Dental decay prevention is easy – read on to clear the confusion!

Read our previous post on what actually constitutes a cavity. 

There is universal agreement that prevention comes in three forms:

1) Diet – Limiting the amount of sugar or acid in your diet will NOT necessarily prevent cavities.  It is important that you limit the duration and frequency of sugary or acidic foods.  This is because the damage done to teeth by these foods (mainly beverages) depends on how long they spend bathing your teeth.  Remember, every time you consume something containing sugar, oral bacteria will also feed off of the sugar, and in turn will release acid onto the teeth not only while you consume the sugar, but continue for an hour after you stop.  And the amount of sugar is irrelevant.  Even one sip an hour of a sugary beverage throughout the day will be enough to generate continuous acid exposure.

Take note, chronic coffee sippers and high school kids working at places with easy access to soft drinks!  The temptation is there, and what could be the harm?  It’s just a small sip now and then…  If you need to stay hydrated throughout the day, stick with plain ‘ol water and save your teeth.

A special mention should also go to people who have frequent stomach acid from their mouths.  Whether it be from heartburn or chronic vomiting for whatever reason, it is important to get it under control.  Once the stomach acid hits your teeth, it will erode them like nobody’s business.

2) Oral hygiene – this is nothing but your basic brushing and flossing of teeth.  We have covered the best way to floss, as well as the best way to brush.  That’s it – there is no magic.  Oral bacteria stick to teeth all day and all night.  Once stuck, they cooperate with other bacteria to form a sticky biofilm that can only be effectively removed by physical scraping.  Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes at a time with a fluoride-containing dentrifice, and floss at least once a day.  If you can, get a decent electric toothbrush and if you can find it, regular thickness unwaxed floss.

Frequently we will get questions about WaterPiks and rinses.  Generally,  you do not need either (although they don’t hurt).  We caution people that these are supplements, not replacements for brushing and flossing.

3) Regular visits to your dentist – sometimes there are special circumstances where the above two measures are inadequate.  This may be because of a patient’s disability that limits decent home brushing and flossing.  Perhaps a medical condition or medication has caused dry mouth to be a problem.  Or, maybe there is just a poor-quality saliva that is unable to neutralize oral acids.  Whatever the problem, visiting a dentist regularly can help put a stop to conditions that might be responsible for decay.

This may involve special management such as the use of professionally-applied fluoride varnish, for individuals at higher risk of decay.

This may mean dental sealants for children who have deep pits in their teeth, to prevent food from packing deep into the grooves.

This may mean certain rinses for those assessed at higher risk.  We spoke about Carifree oral rinse in this post.

This may mean application of a medication to the teeth that can prevent root surface decay.  Read more about Prevora here.

There are lots more, but that is why you come to us – we can put the problem in the proper context and give you proper advice.

Well, we hope this has been helpful in your understanding of dental decay prevention.  For a personalized assessment and plan for your mouth, please contact us!  We’d love to be your dentist in Barrie.


Dr. Elston Wong Portrait

About Dr. Elston Wong

Dr. Elston Wong completed his dental degree at The University of Toronto in 1999 before arriving in Barrie in 2002. After graduating, he continued to learn everything he could about dentistry. Now he has taken the time to share important information for anyone to read.

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