About 91 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 to 64 have had cavities in their permanent teeth. That’s a lot of pain and expense. Some people may not have access to dentists or even sufficient health insurance coverage. But the truth is, none of that matters. Because with the right hygiene and proper nutrition, you can avoid cavities — and maybe even reverse them. Here’s how.
The myth about cavities
Before we talk about what we can do to prevent cavities, let’s talk about the misconception about cavities. Many people believe that once you have tooth decay, your cavity can not be reversed. But a study published in the British Medical Journal found that cavities and tooth decay could potentially be reversed with the right diet.
Sixty-two children with cavities were divided into three different diet groups. The first group ate a standard diet plus oatmeal, which is rich in phytic acid. The second group ate a typical diet but was supplemented with vitamin D. The third group ate a grain-free diet and also took vitamin D.
Researchers found that the first group who ate a diet high in grains and phytic acid had an increase in cavities. The second group saw an improvement in cavities. But the third group who ate a grain-free diet with nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, meat and milk, and supplemented with vitamin D, saw the greatest improvement. In fact, nearly all cavities reversed.
1. Don’t brush your teeth after every meal
I know this seems counter-productive for someone trying to avoid cavities. But according to some dental experts, brushing after each meal could actual cause cavities, especially if you’ve just eaten something acidic like soda, wine or juice. Dr. Peter Alldritt, chairman of the Australian Dental Association oral health committee, told ABC that brushing after each meal may actually ruin softened enamel.
Instead, wait to brush for at least 30 minutes after eating to give your mouth time to produce enough saliva to neutralize acidity. Saliva helps your teeth to harden and absorb more calcium and phosphate, which protects your teeth. Saliva also contains enzymes that act as a buffer to neutralize acid and return the pH of your mouth to neutral again.
2. Rinse your mouth after eating
So, instead of brushing after meals, rinsing with water between brushings may be a better solution for avoiding cavities. To reduce bacteria and remove food particles from your teeth, rinse your mouth with plain water after meals. Rinsing with water removes about 30 percent of mouth bacteria, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
3. Get enough calcium, magnesium and phosphorus
Healthy teeth thrive on minerals. So make sure your diet is rich in calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Calcium-rich foods include: kale, raw milk, broccoli and cheese. Magnesium-rich foods include spinach and bananas. And phosphate-rich foods include lean meat, fish and eggs.
4. Chew xylitol-sweetened gum
Sugar-free gum, specifically a product that uses xylitol, helps prevent cavities. Xylitol is a natural sweetener derived from the fibrous parts of plants. It doesn’t break down like sugar and will help keep a neutral pH level in your mouth. Xylitol also prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth, which is how it protects the teeth from tooth decay, according to xylitol.org. Meanwhile, all that chewing also helps produce more saliva, which lowers bacteria.
5. An apple a day…
They say an apple day keeps the doctor away, but an apple a day also keeps the dentist away. Eating this low-glycemic fruit stimulates saliva, which also decreases the levels of bacteria. And that means a cavity-free mouth.
6. Remember to floss daily
This one’s a no brainer. Regularly flossing your teeth removes plaque. And helping to prevent the plaque buildup means no tartar. Additionally, flossing your teeth can remove excess food particles that you may not see in the mirror or in areas that your toothbrush doesn’t reach. It also helps keep your breath fresher, prevents tooth decay and can reduce your risk of developing gum disease, according to OrabB.
7. Get more vitamins, especially D
For healthy teeth, make sure to include foods loaded with fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. You can even supplement, if need be. Though it’s often just associated with good eyesight, vitamin A is important for keeping your mouth’s saliva flowing. B vitamins, specifically niacin and riboflavin, prevent mouth sores and oral inflammation.
Vitamin C is vital for keeping the connective tissues of your gums strong. Without vitamin C, the tissues that holds teeth securely in place would weaken. If you’re lacking in vitamin C, your teeth could become loose, gums can bleed and gum disease becomes dangerous.
Practice good nutrition and good hygiene and you may never have to worry about a cavity again!
— Katherine Marko