How can I prevent tooth decay?

To prevent tooth decay:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, preferably after each meal and especially before going to bed.
  • Clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners, such as the Oral-B Interdental Brush, Reach Stim-U-Dent, or Sulcabrush.
  • Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacks. Avoid carbohydrates, such as candy, pretzels, and chips, which can remain on the tooth surface especially between meals. If you eat sticky foods, brush your teeth afterwards. Avoid sugar-containing breath mints/candy that remain in the mouth and provide acid etchings from the metabolism of the sugar from bacteria.
  • Check with your dentist about use of supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth.
  • Ask your dentist about dental sealants (a plastic protective coating) applied to the chewing surfaces of your back teeth (molars) to protect them from decay.
  • Drink fluoridated water. At least a pint of fluoridated water each day is needed to protect children from tooth decay.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral examination.

Researchers are developing new means to prevent tooth decay. A study has shown that a chewing gum that contains the sweetener xylitol temporarily retarded the growth of bacteria that cause tooth decay. In addition, several materials that slowly release fluoride over time, which will help prevent further decay, are being explored. These materials would be placed between teeth or in pits and fissures of teeth. Toothpastes and mouth rinses that can reverse and "heal" early cavities are also being studied.

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