I never want to have another cavity in my teeth.
February 4, 2013 4:06 AM   Subscribe

I never want to have another cavity in my teeth. Help make this dream a reality.

I take care of my teeth (Oral-B electric toothbrush + floss + Corsodyl mouthwash twice a day) but every time I go to get a check up at the dentist's and they do an x-ray, it seems like I need another filling. (I'm rather lax about going to the dentist as a result of a stupid phobia, so when I say 'every time' it's more like 'once every 2 or 3 years'.)

So far I have been able to avoid the dreaded root canal but every time they do a filling they comment on 'how deep' it is and how it's been 'borderline'. My dentist tells me I have 'soft' teeth that decay easily. My last filling came about as a result of a crack in my tooth which got infected. I have an appointment later this month... I'm sure they'll find another cavity when I go! :(

So what can I do to take better care of my teeth? I have a varied diet. I have a sweet tooth but don't enjoy fizzy drinks. Those of you with healthy teeth, do you limit your sweet intake? How often do you visit the dentist? What's your oral hygiene like? Is there anything I'm missing? YANMDentist, of course.
posted by Ziggy500 to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I found that electric toothbrushes wore down my enamel (which was very expensive to repair). I brush once or twice a day, and even then try to brushc very lightly, and I focus more on floss and mouthwash.

But if I were you, I would also find a new dentist. It might be paranoid, but I am suspicious that some dentists see more cavaties on patients with good insurance plans, if you know what I mean. A second opinion doesn't hurt, and just keeps you on the safe side.
posted by molecicco at 4:12 AM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

Some people have soft teeth and get a lot of cavities. For example, my dentist. He has a mouth full of metal. He gripes about it sometimes. Me, on the other hand, have crazy nigh-indestructible teeth. I've had one filling in thirty years with no sign of needing any more. My step-son has soft teeth, though, and gets a lot of fillings. From the same dentist.

There are lots of reasons to choose a new dentist but "gives a lot of fillings" is probably not a great one. What I suggest is next time, ask to have the x-rays showing the cavity explained to you. If your dentist is happy to do this, and treats you well when you're in the chair, I'd be hard pressed to find a reason to seek another dentist.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:24 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Good teeth tend to be inherited. You can only do the best you can with what nature gives you. But I'd question the good sense in using Corsodyl regularly unless you have a gum infection - it can discolour your teeth after a while, not to mention contributing to the whole over-use of bactericides thing.

If I had your teeth, I'd visit the dentist twice a year, booking each appointment on the day of the last. Try to adopt the attitude that 'little and often' is the best way to keep things in check. I've been lucky - I went 17 years with no dental treatment and then only had a couple of small cavities. My wife, however, seems to have really fragile teeth, and I do my best to help her to remember to make regular appointments.

You can add greatly to tooth wear by brushing at the wrong times. Acidic foods (things like white wine, apples, fruity drinks and so on) cause a temporary softening of the tooth enamel. I try to leave a couple of hours before brushing when this happens.

Follow up anything sweet with some sugar-free gum. This will stimulate saliva production, neutralising acids and helping to clear away sugar and debris.
posted by pipeski at 4:26 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

1. Go to the dentist more often. The sooner you catch things, the more minor they are in terms of pain and expense to fix. Every 6 months, not 2-3 years.

2. Floss. Floss floss floss. You said you do, but do it more. Do it religiously after every meal. This has greatly reduced the number of cavities I've developed.
posted by Salamander at 4:29 AM on February 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

Both of my parents have awful teeth, cavity-wise, yet my siblings and I have never had a single cavity, ever. Our ages range from 37 to 28. And we are not particularly religious about tooth care. So to a large extent, it's the luck of the draw.

The one difference is that we have been exposed to fluoridated water (and fluoride toothpastes, etc.) our entire lives. So I guess my only recommendation would be to make sure to rinse with fluoride mouthwash 2-3 times a day.
posted by gjc at 5:02 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, go to the dentist more often. The dentist will simply do a better job of cleaning and removing plaque than you can accomplish at home. I also have a bit of a phobia about going to the dentist, but having them do a routine cleaning is pretty easy to deal with, compared to having them filling cavities or worse. I go every four months now and haven't had a problem in years.
posted by exogenous at 5:10 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have pretty good teeth for some reason (I had a 7 year gap, and never, ever flossed in my life until 7 years ago because BLOOD!) but everyone is right:
Find a good dentist, get sorted, go regularly. I had to go 3 monthly for a short while (and it was horrid), now I do a yearly visit, and they don't try the old swift "you need work" when I don't.

I don't eat much in the way of sweets or fizzy drinks (I do like my wine), and anecdotally at least half my parents had bad, bad teeth.

I also hate having strange people in my mouth, or touching me. But it's better than the alternative.
posted by Mezentian at 5:18 AM on February 4, 2013

You say you had a crack in a tooth. Is it possible you're grinding your teeth excessively, especially while you sleep? This is called bruxism, and it can be really destructive. You can try a mouthguard from the drugstore to protect your teeth, but a dentist can fit you with a better, stronger one made for your own mouth.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:41 AM on February 4, 2013

My dentist told me that "flossing is for cleaning, and brushing is just for show".
He was (sorta) joking, but I really think there's some truth behind it.

Because...it's the yucky food chunks stuck BETWEEN our teeth that cause the decay, not the surface stuff.
So, floss, floss and floss again THEN brush if there's time...
posted by mdrew at 5:42 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a friend with a family history of poor teeth, and what helps him most is religiously visiting the dentist every 6 months. He was able to get anti-anxiety meds from the dentist due to his dentist-phobia, and was always careful to ask for a hygienist with soft hands - once he finds someone he likes, he always always schedules with the same one. By having a number of good experiences, he has been able to conquer his phobia and stop using the meds.

One thing I've found to make a huge difference is using a Sonicare AirFloss. It's not the same as flossing, but I actually do it where I didn't floss before. I bled a bit the first few times, but that went away. Also, I HATE using mouthwash, so I now airfloss with mouthwash (instead of water) and swish around the small amount left in my mouth.
posted by bookdragoness at 5:45 AM on February 4, 2013

I haven't had a cavity in decades, so I'm assuming that I am doing something right.

1) Dentist every SIX MONTHS. No excuses.
2) Soft manual toothbrush.
3) Brush after every meal. I even have a brush and paste in my desk at work. Sure I get funny looks in the mens room, but who cares? My teeth are freakin' gorgeous.
4) Floss after every meal. I tend to back slid on this one, but am determined to make it habit. Right now, I'm after dinner only, but need to get on that every meal bandwagon.
5) Brush for at least 2-3 minutes. I usually walk around the house at home, from room to room, to make sure it make that time goal. At work, I just time it on my watch or phone.

Good luck!
A great smile and healthy teeth are a blessing, but you can do a lot to help!
posted by THAT William Mize at 6:11 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Because...it's the yucky food chunks stuck BETWEEN our teeth that cause the decay, not the surface stuff.

I don't drink soda and I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but about 10 years ago I started getting cavities. My dentist pointed to my love of bread as the culprit as it breaks down into sugars, and bread really gets stuck in there if you're not flossing it away.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:41 AM on February 4, 2013

Seconding the comment about bread -- my dentist told me that carb-y foods like bread are a big cavity culprit. So is anything that reduces the amount of saliva in your mouth like smoking, drinking alcohol, certain mouthwashes, breathing through your mouth (I think I do this when I'm sleeping so it's not that easy to address).

I'm cavity-prone so I go every 4 mos for a cleaning. Even though I really hate it and it means paying for some of those visits out of pocket, it's worth it. Look for a dentist who specializes in phobic patients.
posted by Majorita at 7:01 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I found that using fluorinated mouthwash dropped my cavities from on average, 2 a visit, to 0. My dentist explained to me that in my case, my soft teeth could be attributed to a lack of mineral uptake by them, and advised me to start using the mouthwash to strengthen them. The results have been spectacular.
posted by Conspire at 7:06 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have terrible teeth, and after a bout of 7 fillings, my dentist and I implemented the following which has kept me cavity free for several years now:

1. Prevident 5000 (high fluoride, prescription) toothpaste at night, no rinsing or drinking afterwards.
2. Sonicare toothbrush
3. Sugar-free Xylitol gum/mint (xylitol is the important part, it inhibits bacterial growth -- other sugar-free gums/candys won't cut it) after meals

Those three changes have helped tremendously. I no longer fear the dentist and bad dental news. Good luck!
posted by danielle the bee at 7:07 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes to all of the above. Plus, flouride. Flouride bonds with the enamel in your teeth, making them stronger and more resistant to decay. Look at toothpaste ingredients, and buy the one with the most flouride, or ask the dentist to prescribe toothpaste with more flouride. Brush longer; the longer the flouride is in contact with your teeth, the better. You can also use a flouride mouthwash. Chew gum that has xylitol.
posted by theora55 at 7:08 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have great teeth because my mom took flouride pills when she was pregnant with me and I had regular flouride treatments when I was growing up. Also, there's flouride in the water supply, but with most folks drinking bottled water, they aren't getting it like they used to. They make fluridated bottled water. Check that out.

Genetically, I'm supposed to have the mess my parents have, but thank goodness, I don't.

I have a couple of shallow fillings, mostly because my dentist was conservative. I haven't had anything other than a cleaning for 30 years.

I go every 6 months, I brush twice a day with a soft, manual brush and I floss every so often.

My sister, who has my same teeth has a few cavities. My mother suspects it's because she eats a ton of candy.

Hard to say. But up the flouride. Helps your bones too.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:04 AM on February 4, 2013

posted by Cuspidx at 8:10 AM on February 4, 2013

Best answer: The most important thing you can do that you are not currently doing is go to the dentist for a cleaning at least once every six months.
posted by Dansaman at 8:21 AM on February 4, 2013

I'm in the "go to the dentist every 6 months" choir. Even if you floss and brush regularly, dental cleaning is more thorough, and cleaning prevents problems before they start.

Sidenote about brushing: while it's of course good to brush after meals, you shouldn't do so immediately after eating. Waiting at least 30 minutes after meals is the recommendation, due to acid levels making enamel a bit softer right after food. (Sidesidenote: this is also a great reason to drink stuff like soda only in moderation; if you're drinking it through the day, you're basically always keeping your acidity levels high for your poor chompers.)
posted by Drastic at 8:26 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I drink water with and after every meal/snack/non-water drink in order to keep whatever I've eaten or drank from festering on my teeth. This is especially important if you've just consumed sweet or acidic stuff. While I can't say for sure if this is why, I used to get cavities pretty regularly and I haven't had any since I started doing this. It's been several years since I had one. I brush my teeth once a day, at night, and I floss nightly right before brushing. That's all I do. Not sure if using mouthwash twice a day offers any additional benefit. I personally never use it, and I'm not convinced it would do anything to prevent cavities.

But yeah, especially since you are having problems with your teeth, the first step is to start going to the dentist more often. If you've got a dentist phobia, maybe a different dentist would help? Some are worse than others.
posted by wondermouse at 9:20 AM on February 4, 2013

My daughter had sealants put on her bicuspids and molars as they came in. They were covered by insurance until she was 18 after that I paid out of pocket for her second molars. She's mid 20's now and no cavities. Might be worth checking out.
posted by PJMoore at 9:33 AM on February 4, 2013

it's sort of one of those... contentious issues, but you could try oil pulling.. which is swishing a tablespoon of oil (I use coconut or sesame because the flavour masks the grossness for me) around in your mouth for 20 minutes after you brush your teeth.

some naturalistic people put all sorts of claims for detoxifying your body and stuff, but the only scientific study that I can find on its results said it worked pretty well for cleaning and preventing the growth of bacteria on teeth.

you're supposed to do it in the morning on an empty stomach but makes me feel nauseous to do it then. I do it at night, after my night-brush and floss and before mouthwash. I seem to build up less plaque then I used to, and super bonus, I don't seem to wake up with morning breath much, so I feel like it does something.

also, raisins are supposed to prevent cavities somehow too.

also, floss. they make a flosser that looks like a toothbrush handle that a flosser snaps on in the opposite direction of what stick flossers usually look like, and I LOVE it.
posted by euphoria066 at 10:56 AM on February 4, 2013

If you have any bruxism, at all, address it as soon as possible. It is entirely possible to grind the teeth right out of your head.

If you are of the female variety, take calcium during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Babies suck the calcium right out of you.

These are the causes of my now terrible molars, when I only had my first filling in my early 30s. I used to have excellent teeth :(
posted by goo at 11:54 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Keep an eye on Oragenics and developments in a Caries vaccine. It sounds like things might finally be getting close - from the wiki link: Dr. Jeffrey D. Hillman has developed a genetically modified strain of Streptococcus mutans which could be available in 2012-2013.
posted by anonymisc at 12:35 PM on February 4, 2013

Best answer: No recommendations for getting vitamin K2? Well, that's over.

Get vitamin K2 from grass-fed dairy/animals, supplement (MK4 is probably better than MK7), or failing that, eat some natto.

Also, ensure your vitamin D levels are good, and your diet is rich in minerals and low in antinutrients.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 1:43 PM on February 4, 2013

Also, the compounds Recaldent and Novamin have been shown to be able to remineralize caries to a degree; you can find them in products like MI Paste.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 1:46 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

My current dental regimen, which I call "the scouring of the Shire":
(a) Sonicare toothbrush, which I hate
(b) ACT mouthwash
(c) flossing at night and using a mouth pick
(d) I have to go to the dentist EVERY SEASON. Yes, four times a year. I think that, more than anything else, has kept me cavity free for the last 3 years, and I used to have them almost every single time I went in my life. My diet apparently has nothing to do with it--I just have to be thoroughly scoured more than everyone else on the planet.

I am told I should use a Water Pic, but I never remember to fill it up and charge it until I am in the shower and it's too late. But not using that hasn't given me cavities, I guess.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:30 PM on February 4, 2013

I'm among the weak-toothed too. My dentist recommends water after coffee, ACT mouthwash, and absolutely no orange juice.
posted by greenbean at 5:02 PM on February 4, 2013

Best answer: Former dental assistant here. Constant flossing can present its own problems. In most cases, each morning and night is fine. Rinse your mouth with water after most meals, and especially if you've eaten something that sticks to your teeth. Sticky stuff is what really kills your teeth, more than sweet stuff. So, ice cream, for instance, isn't nearly as rough on your teeth as caramel popcorn.

If you find a dentist you trust, ask him to show you how to brush and floss. Really, most people aren't doing it quite right. They didn't learn it the right way when they were kids, and they've been doing it wrong ever since.

I grew up never having cavities, then in adulthood I went for a few years with CONSTANT cavities, and now it seems to have leveled off again, knock wood. I don't think anything I did was affecting it too much. Brushing and flossing didn't seem to make the difference. It was just bad, and then it got better. Teeth are weird.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:41 PM on February 4, 2013

Best answer: i agree wholeheartedly that some of your issue is genetic; some people just have more resistant teeth or different mouth flora or whatever, and others don't. there is only so much you can do, so at the very least, don't torture yourself that you are not doing enough or doing it wrong or whatever, especially now that you are doing some research. once you are satisfied you have educated yourself on the subject, meh, there's only so much you can do.. i think there are a lot of good suggestions for everyday things to do, which I cannot add to, because I take crap care of my own teeth, and have only had one cavity. I do go to the dentist pretty religiously every 6 months. and I use a ton of fluoride rinses and gels and get a shellac-ing of fluoride (really, that's what they call it) every time i am at the dentist. I only do these things because I have sensitive teeth and this brings me relief. My husband takes much better care of his teeth and has had a lot of cavities.

one difference between us though is that my parents got sealants put in all the grooves of my molars. they are still stuck on 30 years later. if you can afford them, i would recommend them, especially if your molars have deepish grooves...
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:16 PM on February 4, 2013

Response by poster: Wow - 31 answers! I'm very grateful, and that's the tooth! ;) (groan)
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:38 AM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Brush twice a day. Floss 2-4 times a day. Use a tongue scraper 1-2 times a day (fingernails work, if it doesn't gross you out.) Try to not eat or drink too much refined sugar.
posted by Green Winnebago at 4:46 PM on February 5, 2013

THAT William Mize: 3) Brush after every meal. I even have a brush and paste in my desk at work. Sure I get funny looks in the mens room, but who cares? My teeth are freakin' gorgeous.
4) Floss after every meal. I tend to back slid on this one, but am determined to make it habit. Right now, I'm after dinner only, but need to get on that every meal bandwagon.
While this is better than not brushing at all, the latest research makes it clear that brushing within roughly an hour period after eating actually damages the teeth. The theory is that acids in food, and created by plaque bacteria, soften the enamel. Wait a bit, the acidity drops, and the enamel rehardens, making it safer to brush.

So, add the phrase "... an hour after..." to the above two rules!
posted by IAmBroom at 7:21 AM on February 7, 2013

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