You look at your calendar and see you have a dentist appointment in a week.
The feelings of anxiety rush up your spine.
You know the dentist is going to tell you have another cavity. You can already feel him scolding you through his cotton surgical mask and the thought is both frustrating and annoying.
To avoid these disheartening interactions with the dentist you need to get rid of tooth decay fast, and the solution might not be as difficult as you think. The secret is understanding how cavities come to be in the first place.
Did you know that cavities are the result of acid eating away at your teeth? Acid breaks down the enamel and minerals that make up your pearly whites and eventually results in cavities: dark, painful holes in the center of your tooth.
You can fend off cavities, however, if you know how to manage that destructive acid. This is the trick to walking into that dentist appointment with a cavity-free smile. So here’s the DL on acid and how you can keep it away from your teeth for good.
Know Where Acid Comes From
The primary sources of teeth-destroying acid in your mouth is bacteria and acidic foods and drinks. These are the two sources you need to be aware of to reduce the amount of problematic acid in your mouth and reduce your risk for cavities.
Cavity-causing bacteria eat sugar in food and drinks and turn it into acid. That’s because cavity-causing bacteria consume simple sugars that breakdown from carbohydrates. They then ferment these sugars and the result is a destructive acid that they leave all over your teeth.
Acidic foods and drinks, with or without sugar, can also damage teeth. Although acidic items with sugar are double bad, acid in any form can wreak havoc on your smile. This happens because your mouth’s pH is lowered. The pH scale measures how acidic something is, and when your mouth drops below a pH of 5.5, your teeth start breaking down. That process is called demineralization.
In general, healthy saliva has a pH ranging from 6.8 to 7.4. Anything below a pH of 5.5 equals demineralization and your enamel starts wearing away. However, you can rebuild your teeth through a process called remineralization. That’s when the minerals that make up your teeth, calcium and phosphate, get redeposited onto your teeth. Your saliva naturally does this and it happens when your mouth is at a pH of 7.5 or higher.
Certain foods and drinks are more acidic than others, and those are the ones you should stay away from or indulge in very rarely. Foods such as blackberries, chocolate, and bread, and drinks like soda, lemonade, and coffee should be consumed rarely to avoid demineralization.
Frequency of Consumption Matters
Whether your aim is to reduce bacteria or acidic foods, frequency is an important factor that can’t be left out. Every time to you eat, your pH naturally drops because your body produces acid to digest food. The more often you consume sugars and carbohydrates, the more vulnerable your mouth is to tooth decay.
Besides consuming sugars and carbohydrates less frequently during the day, there are a few things you can do to keep cavities away before your next dental visit. Work these into your everyday routine to clean up your smile.
1. Rinse teeth with water after meals. Water helps wash away leftover food particles and buffers your saliva. Saliva helps remineralize your teeth, and water, especially water with fluoride, can help repair some of the damage done by bacteria and acid.
2. Use xylitol gum. Xylitol gum increases saliva flow, so you get even more of those remineralization benefits, but it also reduces your bacteria load. Xylitol tricks bacteria into consuming it because it looks like sugar, but when the bacteria can’t digest xylitol they eventually starve and die off. With xylitol gum, you’re fighting cavities on two fronts.
3. Avoid rinsing with common low pH rinses or alcohol-based mouthwashes. Low pH mouthwash can do more damage than good because it keeps the environment of your mouth at dangerously low pH levels. When your pH is low, it’s easier for bacteria to thrive. And alcohol dries the mouth out and leads to poor saliva flow, so you’re more susceptible to bacteria and acid.
4. Brush every morning and night with an anti-microbial toothbrush. Brushing your teeth everyday is great, but when you use the same toothbrush, you’re just reintroducing that same bacteria to your mouth. An anti-microbial toothbrush reduces bacterial load in your mouth mechanically by scrubbing it away and keeping it that way.
5. Use xylitol toothpaste. Most OTC toothpastes contain fluoride because it can help strengthen enamel, but fluoride is not right for everyone. Over-the-counter toothpastes also often contain sweeteners that can be metabolized by cavity-causing bacteria. Make sure you look for toothpastes that are sweetened with xylitol.
If you’re ready to stop dreading dentist visits and starting coming prepared with a cavity-free mouth, then you need to introduce xylitol into your daily routine. You can reduce acid-producing bacteria, fight the effects of acid, and repair previous damage.