Tiny cavities in teeth can enlarge over time, as the protective enamel erodes away by acids and bacteria. As the enamel is eroded, the cavities continue to wear away at the teeth in a process known as “tooth decay”. If left untreated, the decay will reach the inside of the nerve pulp and blood vessels. The only way to get rid of cavities is to have a dentist fill them. There are several steps you can take to prevent cavities from getting worse until you see a dentist.
Part 1 of 3: Preventing Existing Holes from Getting Worse
Step 1. Clean the hole area carefully
Ideally, brush your teeth while preventing cavities. However, brushing your teeth is also important to prevent cavities from getting worse. Food residue that accumulates stimulates the growth of bacteria. These bacteria will get into the hole and make it worse. When brushing your teeth, focus on the holes to remove food debris and prevent cavities from developing.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and don't press too hard while brushing your teeth. Gently move the brush back and forth for at least 2 minutes.
- Brush your teeth twice a day and after eating. It's important to keep your mouth clean when you have cavities, as plaque begins to build up within 20 minutes of eating.
Step 2. Be aware of the symptoms of cavities
Tooth decay occurs gradually, and sometimes, cavities can appear and develop without showing many symptoms. This is one reason why regular visits to the dentist are important. There are several signs that indicate that cavities are forming or that the tooth has cavities. If you experience any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with your dentist. While waiting, take a few steps to prevent the hole from getting worse.
- White patches on teeth. This can be an early sign of tooth decay or fluorosis. Spots indicate where the acid has damaged the minerals in tooth enamel. Putrefaction can still be cured at this stage, so act if you notice this in your mouth.
- Sensitive teeth. Sensitivity generally occurs after consuming sweet, hot, or cold foods or drinks. Sensitivity is not always a sign of decay, and many people have sensitive teeth. But if your teeth were previously insensitive and suddenly you start to feel sensitivity to certain drinks or foods, this is cause for concern.
- Pain when biting.
- Toothache. As the hole deepens and affects the nerve of the tooth, you may feel a persistent pain in the tooth. This can get worse with eating and drinking. Pain can also appear suddenly.
- A clearly visible hole in the tooth. This indicates the cavity has progressed far and has significantly damaged the tooth.
- Cavities can appear and enlarge over time without any symptoms.
Step 3. Use a fluoride treatment
Fluoride is bacteriostatic, which prevents bacteria in the mouth from dividing. It also strengthens the teeth by providing a mineral coating on the enamel, which makes the teeth more resistant to cavities. If you detect holes early, a good fluoride treatment may even treat rot. You can buy fluoride-rich products at the store, but for higher fluoride content, you'll need to get a prescription from your dentist. The best option is a professional fluoride medication from your dentist, but there are some products you can use while you wait.
- Fluoride toothpaste. Most toothpastes sold in the market contain about 1000 to 1500 mg/liter sodium fluoride. Dentists can prescribe a fluoride toothpaste containing about 5000 mg/liter sodium fluoride.
- Fluoride mouthwash. Fluoride mouthwash can be used every day. This mouthwash generally contains 225 to 1000 mg/liter sodium fluoride. Look for mouthwash that is approved by BPOM which shows that the mouthwash has been tested by BPOM.
- Fluoride gel. The fluoride gel is thick and will stay on the teeth for a long time. Pour the gel into the tray and then place the tray on the teeth.
Step 4. Drink water
A dry mouth can accelerate tooth decay by allowing cavities-causing bacteria to accumulate. Keep your mouth moist to slow down the development of cavities and rinse out any food debris that can make spoilage worse.
If your mouth remains dry despite drinking lots of water, this could be a symptom of a more serious medical condition, or the effect of medications. Consult a dentist if dry mouth continues to be a problem for you
Step 5. Chew sugar-free gum containing xylitol
Xylitol is a natural alcohol extracted from plants. This ingredient contains antibacterial elements that prevent infection. Chewing gum containing 1-20 grams of xylitol helps kill the bacteria that cause cavities and make them worse. If you suspect cavities, try chewing xylitol gum to prevent them from growing until you see your dentist.
- Buy chewing gum with the BPOM label. This is to ensure the safety of your teeth.
- Chewing gum can also stimulate saliva production, which helps wash away food debris and keep the enamel strong.
Step 6. Try gargling with salt water
Salt water is an antiseptic, and dentists often recommend it for treating sores or infections in the mouth. Salt water can also kill cavity-causing bacteria, slowing their growth until you see a dentist.
- Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in one cup of warm water.
- Gargle with this water for one minute. Focus on cavities.
- Repeat this process 3 times a day.
Step 7. Clean the teeth with licorice root
Although not thoroughly studied, there is evidence to suggest that licorice root can prevent and slow the development of cavities. This can kill the bacteria causing the hole and can reduce inflammation. Try using licorice root as a home remedy to inhibit the growth of cavities while waiting for your dentist appointment.
- Some toothpastes made by Tom's of Maine contain licorice root. Alternatively, you can buy licorice root powder at the store and mix it with toothpaste.
- Be sure to buy deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), which does not contain glycyrrhiza, an ingredient that can cause uncomfortable and even serious side effects.
- Always consult a doctor before using licorice root. Licorice root can react with certain medications, such as ACE inhibitors, insulin, MAO inhibitors, and contraceptive pills. Licorice root can also cause health problems for people with certain health conditions, such as liver or kidney disease, diabetes, heart failure or heart disease, or hormone-sensitive cancer.
Step 8. Avoid refined sugar
Tooth decay is caused by acid-producing bacteria that grow in an acidic environment. These bacteria use the sugar in dental plaque as fuel. This is why the consumption of sugary foods and drinks should be suppressed. If possible, brush your teeth after eating.
Foods high in starch, such as potatoes, bread, and pasta, also create a conducive environment for acid-producing bacteria. Limit consumption of simple and refined carbohydrates, and brush your teeth after eating
Part 2 of 3: Visiting the Dentist To Treat Cavities
Step 1. Discuss treatment options with your dentist
Depending on the development of the cavity, the dentist may recommend different types of treatment. If you have any questions about the treatment procedure, ask your dentist.
Step 2. Get a professional fluoride treatment
If a new hole has formed and is still very small, your dentist can suggest a noninvasive and high-fluoride treatment. This material is generally applied to the teeth and left for a few minutes. This will help restore the damaged area's enamel and, if done early enough, can provide minerals to the teeth.
While this treatment generally only lasts a few minutes, you can't eat or drink for the next 30 minutes or so for the fluoride to absorb properly
Step 3. Fill cavities if your dentist recommends it
Most cavities are not detected early enough for fluoride to work effectively. If so, the hole needs to be patched. During this process, the dentist will drill out the damaged part of the tooth. Then he will fill the hole with a material.
- Generally, dentists will use porcelain or composite resin to fill in cavities, especially for front teeth. Both of these materials are the main choice because the color resembles the color of teeth.
- Dentists can fill holes in back teeth with a mixture of silver or gold, as both are stronger. Plaque also usually thrives on the back teeth.
Step 4. Discuss root canal treatment with the dentist if the cavity has developed into the pulp of the tooth
The dentist will remove the infected tooth pulp, use an antiseptic to remove bacteria, and then fill it with a covering material. This is generally a last resort to save the tooth before it is extracted.
In many cases, you will need a crown (“cap” for the tooth) during root canal treatment
Step 5. Ask your dentist about tooth extraction if the damage from the cavities is so severe that the tooth cannot be saved
In this case, the dentist will remove the damaged tooth. After that, you can replace the tooth with a dental implant, for aesthetic purposes and to prevent the tooth from shifting position.
Part 3 of 3: Preventing Tooth Cavities
Step 1. Brush your teeth twice a day
Keep your mouth clean and healthy by brushing it twice a day. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, and replace it every 3-4 months. To ensure that you're brushing effectively, follow some of the American Dental Association's instructions.
- Point the toothbrush 45 degrees towards the gum line. Plaque usually builds up at the gum line.
- Gently sweep the toothbrush back and forth in small motions. Movement is only one tooth wide.
- Clean the outside and inside of the teeth.
- Brush your teeth for about two minutes.
- Clean the tongue as a cover. If you don't clean your tongue, you will leave a lot of bacteria that will re-contaminate your mouth once your teeth are cleaned.
- Do this at least twice a day.
Step 2. Clean your teeth with dental floss every day
In addition to brushing your teeth, flossing is important for maintaining oral health. Try to floss at least once a day, though ideally twice a day. Follow these simple steps to make sure you are flossing properly.
- Remove about 45cm of dental floss. Wrap most of the yarn around one middle finger, the rest wrapped around the other middle finger.
- Hold the string tightly between your thumb and forefinger. Swipe the floss between the teeth.
- Once the floss reaches the gum line, make a "C" shape so that it resembles the shape of the tooth.
- Hold the floss tightly against the teeth, and move it up and down gently.
- Repeat this whole process for the other teeth.
- Use a clean section of floss for each tooth.
- If the gap between the teeth is very small, use a waxy or "slippery" dental floss. You can also use convenient little pre-threaded flossers. The most important thing is to clean your teeth with dental floss regularly.
Step 3. Gargle with mouthwash approved by BPOM
Some mouthwashes only cover bad breath without killing bacteria and removing plaque that causes bad breath and cavities. When buying mouthwash, look for products with the BPOM approval mark, which indicates that BPOM has tested and acknowledged the product's ability to fight plaque.
- Make sure you buy a mouthwash that helps reduce plaque, fights gingivitis and cavities, and reduces bad breath.
- There are many low or no alcohol mouthwashes that are good for oral health. Try a mouthwash like this one if you can't stand the "hot" sensation of traditional mouthwash.
Step 4. Maintain a healthy diet for teeth
What you eat greatly affects your oral health. Some foods are good for teeth, while others should be limited in consumption or avoided altogether.
- Eat foods rich in fiber. Fiber helps remove plaque from teeth. Fiber also stimulates the production of saliva, which helps wash away harmful acids and enzymes from the teeth. To get fiber, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as whole-grain products.
- Consumption of dairy products. Milk, cheese, and plain yogurt also stimulate saliva production. This product also contains calcium, which strengthens tooth enamel.
- Drinking tea. The nutrients in green and black tea help break down plaque and inhibit bacterial growth. Brewing tea with fluoride-containing water will provide double the nutrition for your teeth.
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks. Sugar promotes the growth of plaque and bacteria, which results in tooth decay. Limit consumption of sweets and sodas. If you eat sugary foods, drink plenty of water afterward. This will cause your mouth to produce more saliva, which helps wash away sugar and reduces acid and bacterial growth.
- Brush your teeth after eating a high-carb meal. Foods such as potatoes and corn are more easily stuck between the teeth, which can lead to tooth decay. Be sure to clean your teeth after eating foods like these to avoid cavities.
Step 5. Avoid acidic drinks
Drinks like soda, alcohol, and fruit juices are acidic and encourage the growth of bacteria that cause tooth decay. Limit consumption of these drinks, or avoid them altogether.
- The most dangerous are sports drinks like Gatorade, energy drinks like Red Bull, and sodas like Coke. Carbonation can erode teeth.
- Drink lots of water. Rinse your mouth with water after drinking acidic drinks.
- Remember that even 100% pure fruit juice contains sugar. Dissolve 100% pure fruit juice with equal amounts of water, especially for small children. Limit this consumption and rinse your mouth with water after drinking fruit juice.
Step 6. Visit the dentist regularly
Generally, a visit to the dentist is done every 6 months. Stick to the schedule of visits to ensure a healthy mouth. During the visit, the dentist will clean the teeth thoroughly, removing any plaque that has accumulated over the past few months. He or she will also check for signs of cavities, gum disease, other oral health problems.
- Dentists can also detect cavities early. If the dentist finds the cavity early enough, he or she can treat it without an invasive procedure.
- For example, lifestyle changes, good oral hygiene, and fluoride treatment may be enough to treat very small cavities. These things can stimulate “mineral rebuilding”, a natural regeneration process.
Dental cleaning by a dentist generally involves tartar removal, polishing, and fluoride varnish
- If you feel you have cavities, you should see a dentist. While it's good to keep cavities from getting worse, the only way to treat cavities is to ask your dentist to fill them.
- You may not notice cavities because there are no obvious symptoms. Be sure to go to the dentist for regular checkups.