Dental caries, also called cavities, are a sign of tooth decay, caused by bacteria that damage the enamel of the teeth. No one wants to be dealing with a toothache or the other symptoms associated with tooth damage. Healthy teeth contribute to a healthy body. Tooth problems can affect your ability to eat well, speak, and function at full capacity. They can even put you at risk for some larger whole-body health issues.

Still, preventing caries can seem like a daunting task, especially if you are prone to them. It can be tempting to avoid the dentist for as long as possible instead of confronting the health of your teeth, but caring for your teeth well doesn’t have to be overwhelming. There are a few simple things you can do to prevent caries and protect your teeth from painful damage.

See a Dentist

First thing’s first: If it has been a while since you’ve visited a dentist, schedule a checkup. Typical advice is to get a routine cleaning and exam every six months. Getting an assessment of your oral health is important as it allows your dentist to make personalized recommendations for your oral care and to catch any issue early. If you’ve been taking great care of your teeth, this is a good opportunity to just check in and make sure everything is going well. If you’ve been neglecting your dental care routine, don’t shy away from the dental office visit. They’ve seen it all when it comes to oral health, and they are there to help and support you. Be sure to discuss any symptoms you’ve been experiencing and any questions you have about your oral care routine.

Check Your Routine

There are a few key elements to include in a healthy oral care routine:

  • Brushing: Brush teeth at least twice daily, especially after eating and before bed. Choose a fluoride toothpaste to protect your tooth enamel.
  • Flossing: It’s easy to neglect this step, but flossing has many important health benefits and only takes a couple of minutes. You can even try out different types of floss, such as waxed vs. unwaxed, dental tape, or floss holders. Alternatively, you could use an interdental brush. Find your preference and make it a habitual part of your routine.
  • Mouthwash: A fluoridated mouthwash can provide added protection against cavities. Check with your dentist about what kind of mouthwash would be best for your routine.

Once you have the right products, solidify your routine into a habit. Set a reminder or alarm so you don’t forget when it’s time to brush, floss, or rinse. Try out some tips for forming a new habit, such as providing yourself a cue so that you’ll remember or finding a small way to reward yourself for sticking to your routine. After a few weeks, your oral health routine will feel automatic, and you won’t have to work so hard to stick to it.

Examine Your Eating/Drinking Habits

If you have been getting regular dental exams and following a healthy dental care routine, but you are still prone to dental caries, you may need to look at your eating and drinking habits. First, look at when you are eating during the day. Try to limit snacking; this gives your teeth a needed break from fending off bacteria. It also makes it easier to brush each time after eating, which further limits your exposure to tooth-decaying bacteria.

Next, look at what you are eating and drinking. Beware of sugary and acidic foods and beverages that can be especially hard on teeth. A few top offenders include candy, soda, sports drinks, and sticky foods such as dried fruit. Try to limit consumption of these, and be sure to brush and floss well after consuming them. Water is the most teeth-friendly beverage option. Make it your drink of choice and drink often to help rinse food particles from your teeth.

Dental caries can be a painful experience, and it’s worth it to invest a little time into their prevention. Prioritizing your oral health can be as simple as creating a healthy oral care routine and checking in regularly with your dentist. If your teeth need more help, look at your other habits and seek help from a dental care provider who can help you to individualize a care plan.