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The best way to combat cavities is to follow three simple steps:

1. Cut down on sweets and between-meal snacks. Remember, it’s these sugary and starchy treats that put your teeth at extra risk.

2. Brush after every meal and floss daily. Cavities most often begin in hard-to-clean areas between teeth and in the fissures and pits, the edges in the tooth crown and gaps between teeth. Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and brush inside, outside and between your teeth and on the top of your tongue.

Be sure the bristles are firm, not bent, and replace the toothbrush after a few weeks to safeguard against reinfecting your mouth with old bacteria than can collect on the brush. Only buy toothpastes and rinses that contain fluoride (antiseptic rinses also help remove plaque) and that bear the American Dental Association seal of acceptance logo on the package. Children under six should only use a small pea-sized dab of toothpaste on the brush and should spit out as much as possible because a child’s developing teeth are sensitive to higher fluoride levels. Finally, because caries is a transmittable disease, toothbrushes should never be shared, especially with your children.

3. See your dentist at least every six months for checkups and professional cleanings. Because cavities can be difficult to detect a thorough dental examination is very important. If you get a painful toothache, if your teeth are very sensitive to hot or cold foods, or if you notice signs of decay like white spots, tooth discolorations or cavities, make an appointment right away.

The longer you wait to treat infected teeth the more intensive and lengthy the treatment will be. Left neglected, cavities can lead to root canal infection, permanent deterioration of decayed tooth substance and even loss of the tooth itself.

Some toothpastes contain abrasive ingredients that may be too harsh for people who have sensitive teeth. Ingredients found in some whitening toothpastes that lighten and/or remove certain stains from enamel, and sodium pyrophosphate, the key ingredient in tartar-control toothpastes may increase tooth sensitivity.

Before the visit, ask the dentist about the procedures of the first appointment so there are no surprises. Plan a course of action for either reaction your child may exhibit-cooperative or non- cooperative. Very young children may be fussy and not sit still. Talk to your child about what to expect, and build excitement as well as understanding about the upcoming visit. Bring with you to the appointment any records of your child’s complete medical history.

Invisible germs called bacteria live in your mouth all the time. Some of these bacteria form a sticky material called plaque on the surface of the teeth.

When you put sugar in your mouth, the bacteria in the plaque gobble up the sweet stuff and turn it into acids. These acids are powerful enough to dissolve the hard enamel that covers your teeth. That’s how cavities get started. If you don’t eat much sugar, the bacteria can’t produce as much of the acid that eats away enamel.

It might be a good idea to brush with the radio on, since dentists generally recommend brushing 3-4 minutes, the length of an average song. Using an egg timer is another way to measure your brushing time. Patients generally think they’re brushing longer, but most spend less than a minute brushing. To make sure you’re doing a thorough job and not missing any spots, patients are advised to brush the full 3-4 minutes twice a day, instead of brushing quickly five or more times through the day.

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