Combatting Cavities – 6 Surprising Ways to Prevent Tooth Decay
Although tooth decay has been on the decline in the United States since the 1960s, it continues to be one of the most widespread and detrimental oral health conditions, affecting more than 3 million Americans every year. Tooth decay affects people of all ages and is the most common chronic childhood illness, according to the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation (NCOHF).
In addition to causing gum disease and tooth loss, decay has been linked with a number of serious general health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer. As Dr. Mayo of the famed Mayo Clinic once said, “If a person can take care of their teeth and gums they can extend their life by at least 10 years.” Although this can vary from person to person based on a variety of factors, there is no arguing that maintaining impeccable oral health is a fantastic starting point for optimal general health.
There are a number of ways to prevent tooth decay that you’re no doubt aware of, including brushing and flossing regularly, visiting your dentist for a checkup the ADA-recommended two times per year, rinsing with mouthwash, etc. But there are some other, less obvious things you can do in the fight against decay.
Here are six surprising ways to combat tooth decay:
1. Eat Cheese
We all know that cheese is delicious, but you might be shocked to learn that it can also help stave off tooth decay. The Academy of General Dentistry has linked eating cheese with an increase in healthful alkaline saliva which helps to neutralize dangerous tooth attacking plaque acids. Cheese can also aid tooth decay prevention by creating a protective layer around the teeth, making it more difficult for harmful bacteria to attack.
For the dental-health conscious cheese lovers out there, this certainly is Gouda news.
2. Drink Milk
Besides cheese, there’s another surprising dairy product that can be good for your teeth: milk. As the ads used to say, “Milk… it does a body good.” Well, this goes for teeth as well. Milk is packed with calcium, phosphorous and caseins, which together help form a protective shield for tooth enamel. This helps stop acidic bacteria from damaging the teeth.
Milk can be particularly beneficial if used to wash down sugary treats like cookies or cakes. In addition to helping wash away and residue, the milk helps to form a layer of protection.
3. Brush First Thing
We all have our morning routine, much of which tends to center around getting that first cup of coffee into the system. Here’s a question: do you brush your teeth before or after that morning coffee (and/or breakfast)? If you brush after, you could be doing more harm than good. Breakfast foods and drinks are often high in acids that alter the pH balance of your mouth. If you brush too soon after introducing this pH imbalance, you could actually be stripping away healthful minerals needed to protect your teeth.
Try brushing your teeth first thing after you wake up. This helps clear away the bacteria that build up while you are sleeping. Eating and drinking acidic foods before brushing could also weaken enamel and end up causing more harm than good.
4. Use a Straw
Fruit juices, sodas and other drinks are high in acidic sugars that can have a detrimental effect on your teeth. As a result, dentists often advise patients to avoid sipping on sodas or other such drinks between meals. But if you really need that Diet Coke fix midday, there’s another option… use a straw. By using a straw, you’re able to bypass the teeth altogether and minimize the impact the sugary beverage has.
5. Drink Wine
A number of studies have established a link between drinking one glass of red wine a day and heart health, but any mention of red wine consumption and dental health in the same sentence usually has to do with avoiding red wine after teeth whitening (it can cause staining). So it might surprise you to learn that red wine has been linked with helping to prevent tooth decay. Italian researchers isolated chemicals in red wine called proanthocyanidins that were capable of repelling the harmful bacteria causing tooth decay. Cheers to that.
6. Chew Gum (Sugar-free of Course)
Here’s one that actually might not surprise you given the number of commercials promoting the benefits of sugar-free gum these days. But just in case you don’t already know, chewing sugar-free gum can actually help to protect your teeth from decay; especially if done after meals. The chewing stimulates the flow of saliva which can help wash away plaque-causing bacteria and helping to maintain a healthy pH balance. Always keep a pack of your favorite flavor handy to help protect your smile.