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Cavity Prevention Advice for Everyone

You depend on your teeth to bite, chew, speak and to help you to look your best. Taking good care of your teeth means preventing cavities and removing plaque that can cause tooth decay. This guide is intended to provide you with useful information and proven tips and strategies that will help you to steer clear of cavities and tooth decay for yourself and your family.

Understanding Plaque, Tartar and Tooth Decay

Even though plaque is one of the main causes of tooth decay and cavities, it is not very well understood by most people. Plaque is the product of the breakdown of food particles by bacteria that live in the warm, moist environment of your mouth. It is a whitish or clear material that sticks easily to the surfaces of teeth. Because it is also acidic, plaque can cause damage to tooth enamel over time. This is the way in which most cavities are formed.

Plaque that is allowed to remain on teeth can harden into a whitish or yellowish substance called tartar or calculus. This hard material can irritate gums, causing inflammation that can be a precursor to gum disease. Professional dental cleaning is necessary to remove tartar.

Most cases of tooth decay and cavities can be traced back to plaque and the damage it can cause. Removing plaque promptly and completely is the most important way to prevent cavities and to improve your dental health for many more years of brilliant smiles and strong teeth.

Brush, Floss, and Rinse

Three of the most important strategies for removing plaque are brushing your teeth correctly, flossing your teeth daily and rinsing your mouth after meals and snacks:

  • Most people brush their teeth every day. Doing it the right way, however, requires spending about two minutes or more and brushing all surfaces of your teeth. Brushing after every meal or snack with a toothpaste that contains fluoride is the best method for eliminating plaque. If this isn’t practical, however, you can brush once in the morning and once at night, using small circular motions to reach all parts of your teeth. Brushing your gums will also remove plaque from these areas of your mouth to provide even greater protection against cavities and tooth decay.
  • Flossing once or twice per day is recommended to remove food debris and plaque from between teeth. Be gentle when moving the floss up and down between teeth. Using a clean portion of floss each time is essential to prevent bacteria and plaque from migrating from one area of your mouth to another during this process.
  • Rinsing your mouth with a fluoride mouthwash or with plain water is also helpful in flushing away impurities like bacteria and particles of food and plaque from your mouth and teeth. Repeating this process after each meal and snack will reduce your risk of developing cavities and experiencing tooth decay.

These basic steps are the foundation for good dental hygiene. If you have small children, inviting them to brush, floss and rinse with you after each meal can instill good hygiene habits that could last for their entire lives.

Get a Little Help From Your Dentist

Your local dental office in Northern Virginia is an important source of assistance in dealing with plaque and tooth decay. Tooth sealants, fluoride treatments and regular exams are among the most helpful services offered by these professionals:

  • Dental sealants are applied over your teeth and seal off the gaps and cracks that could otherwise provide a home for bacteria and plaque. These treatments can last for up to 10 years before they must be renewed. Asking your dentist about dental sealants could help you to prevent cavities for many years into the future.
  • Fluoride interacts with your tooth enamel to make it harder and more resistant to decay. Fluoride treatments in your dentist’s office are a great idea for kids and adults alike. During these treatments, fluoride is painted onto the surfaces of your teeth to harden the enamel and to provide added protection against cavities and tooth decay for you.
  • Regular dental exams may not seem like a way to fight cavities. In fact, these appointments offer your dentist the opportunity to evaluate the condition of your teeth and to provide you with expert recommendations on the best way to protect against tooth decay. Your dentist will provide you with professional help and guidance for your dental hygiene activities.

Dental appointments can begin as soon as a child has teeth and can continue for the rest of their lives. Making dental care a part of your regular routine will pay off in improved health for your teeth and your mouth.

What to Do If You Get a Cavity

A cavity can be upsetting, painful, and even embarrassing. Visiting a dentist in Northern Virginia should be your first response to a suspected cavity. Your dentist can provide you with treatment options to address your symptoms and to save your tooth if that is still possible. Treatments for cavities and tooth decay include the following:

  • Fillings are the first line of defense against cavities. These dental solutions are used to replace the damaged or decayed portion of your tooth. They are usually made of precious metals, tooth-colored composite materials or a substance known as amalgam.
  • Your dentist may recommend a crown to cover damaged teeth and to hold the filling securely in place. Crowns are available in a variety of materials and offer added structural support for teeth that are used to bite or chew.
  • Severely infected teeth may require a root canal procedure. Your dentist will explain the reasons for this treatment, which is generally used to relieve pain by removing the nerve endings and infected tissue completely and filling the roots and shell of the tooth with dental filling materials.

Consulting with your dentist in Northern Virginia will help you to find the right ways to prevent cavities and to treat them effectively when they do occur.

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