How to Prevent Tooth Cavity
Common Health Issues

How to Prevent Tooth Cavity

Tooth cavity is a disease; it is not a mysterious rotting of the teeth that must be accepted fatalistically. To understand how tooth cavities develop, you should know something about the structure of the teeth.


Each tooth has a crown (the part that lies above the surface) and a root (the part that lies within the jaw). The root is covered with a thin, bone-like layer called cementum; the crown is covered with a coating of enamel, which is thickest on the grinding surface, where it wears down from use.


Beneath the enamel lies the resilient, leathery dentin, which covers the pulp chamber; and running from the chamber to the root is the root canal, which contains blood vessels and nerve fibers.

Tooth cavities almost always starts on the crown, in the enamel, with a pinhead-sized collection of bacteria and food. It is generally believed that most of these bacteria thrive best on starchy and sugary food, which they convert into lactic acid.


Although the tooth enamel is the strongest material in the body, able to withstand enormous biting pressures, it is extremely vulnerable to lactic acid, which quickly and permanently dissolves it. By creating minute pits and furrows on the surface of the tooth, the acid opens up new territory for the bacteria, which soon reach the softer, richer dentin, where they grow faster and spread rapidly.


Finally, they proceed into the root canal, attacking the nerves and causing great pain.


Infected pulp and decaying teeth make excellent breeding places for bacteria. They can cause localized abscesses, and may even enter the bloodstream to spread their poison to various parts of the body.


Teeth Filling

Enamel that has been destroyed by acid will not grow back again, neither will the dentin of a tooth destroyed by bacteria. For the dentist to save the tooth, he must remove the diseased portion and fill the cavity.


When the decay has extended into the pulp and root canal, the tooth may begin to ache. The nerve dies, and the infection spreads around the ends of the roots in the jawbone. The dentist tries to save most of the tooth by cleaning out the decay and the residue of the pulp and nerve.

He sterilizes the root canal with an irrigational solution and antiseptics, then fills it and the cavity to seal them. If the infection continues or recurs, it may be necessary to perform an apicoectomy—a minor surgical procedure involving removal of the infected end of the root.


Why Do You Get So Many Cavities

Some people seem to inherit so-called soft teeth which decay more readily than teeth with a harder enamel. 

Others seem to be immune to dental cavities, for reasons which are not yet known. Sometimes—again for unknown reasons—people have an immunity to cavities during certain periods of their lives, usually from about 25 to 45 years of age.




Extensive research has established that fluoride is an aid in reducing the amount of tooth decay, or preventing it entirely. Your dentist may apply it directly to your teeth. Many toothpastes now contain it. Fluoride tablets are sometimes recommended for young children who do not receive fluoride in any other form. But it is most effective when absorbed by the body through drinking water, and for this reason the drinking water in many communities is now fluoridated.


In such communities, no added fluoride in the toothpaste is needed although it may give added protection. Possible side effects of artificial fluoridation of water, however, is still a subject of debate in some scientific circles.


How to Prevent Tooth Cavity

Scientists have studied ways of attacking the bacteria that dissolve the enamel by producing acid. In addition, we ourselves can do some things to render them harmless. The first has to do with diet. Decay bacteria demand carbohydrates (sugar and starches) for food. It is these carbohydrates that are converted into lactic acid. Sweet carbonated beverages contain concentrated sugars. Pastries, pies, cookies and ice cream also contain considerable sugar. The worst enemies of the teeth are chewy candies, and sweetened chewing gum. A sweet tooth can ruin all the teeth!


The second important thing you can do to reduce tooth decay and to keep your teeth and gum healthy is to use unwaxed dental floss daily. This helps remove the thing, transparent film called plaque that builds up on the teeth and serves as the collecting point at which the bacteria begin the decay process. Flossing greatly reduces the plaque and thus reduces the incidence of decay.


Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Some people, both adults and children, grind their teeth during sleep or at other times, either because of a malocclusion or as a result of nervous tension. This habit, which is known as bruxism, can wear away the enamel. An alert dentist can usually recognize the symptoms of the problems, and may recommend reshaping the cusps of the teeth or the use of a plastic nightguard to be kept in the mouth during sleep to protect the tooth surfaces from the constant abrasion.


How to Keep Your Teeth Clean


Brush Your Teeth

The purpose of brushing the teeth is to help prevent decay by removing food particles from the surfaces of the teeth. The surfaces that need to be brushed most carefully are those between the teeth and in the crevices of the bicuspids and molars. Proper brushing also massages the gums and cleans the crevices where teeth and gum meet. The best times to brush your teeth—or to rinse your mouth thoroughly with water or salt water, if it’s not convenient for you to use a toothbrush—are after meals and before going to bed.



Have Two Good Toothbrushes

Two toothbrushes are necessary to make sure that each of them gets a chance to dry out thoroughly. This helps the bristles to remain in good condition longer. Rinse the brush in cold water after using it; any food particles that remain on it will provide an excellent breeding place for bacteria. Do not let your toothbrush touch the brushes others have been using.


Use a Safe Toothpaste

As yet, there is no perfect toothpaste or powder. Those containing harsh abrasives or strong antiseptics should be avoided. Rely on the recommendation of your dentist or public health agencies.


Brush Properly

Proper brushing is an important step in dental health. Most dentists believe that a soft brush with rounded bristles actually work under the crevices between teeth and gums, and provide excellent cleaning action without damaging the gums. The brush should be held at an angle of about 45 degrees, with the bristles directed to the area where the gum meets the crown of the teeth. The brush should be moved in a short, vibrating action, with the teeth cleaned in groups of three or four at a time.


The Electric Toothbrush and Similar Devices

Some dentist believe electric toothbrushes massage the gums more thoroughly than hand brushes. Another electric dental device, manufactured under various trade names, emits a tiny stream of water under high pressure that flushes out food particles. Before you spend your money for either of these instruments, get your dentist’s advice.


Care of Artificial Teeth

Dentures should be removed and cleaned and the mouth rinsed after every meal, if possible. Do not use hot water, as it may warp or crack the denture. Putting them in a glass of water overnight helps to keep them clean. Dentures should be checked regularly by your dentist to make certain that they have not warped and that a change in your mouth or gums has not altered or impaired their fit.



Certain foods cause bad breath, and the condition almost always accompanies pyorrhea. It can also be caused by teeth and gums that are not clean or in good conditions. In addition, halitosis may have medical causes, such as inflamed tonsils, infections in or behind the nose, disorders of the stomach or intestine, and uremia, among others.

 It is difficult to tell whether one has halitosis, but there is no need to worry about it or spend time and money on remedies. Your dentist or doctor will tell you and help you find its cause and cure.



How often should you see your dentist? As often as necessary. Let her decide. If dental decay is on the rampage, or you are fighting off a threatened case of pyorrhea, you may need to have a dental appointment every month. Under other circumstances, a visit once a year may be sufficient. Unless your dentist reminds you periodically, it would probably be advisable for you to make an appointment now—because the chances are you are overdue for a visit!


Are you interested in a career in dentistry? In this free online course, learn about the career path, roles and duties of a dental assistant in a dental office.


Looking to become a dental aide? Are you curious about the day-to-day activities of a dental assistant? This course will introduce you to the interpersonal skills, functionalities, roles and responsibilities of a dental assistant in a dental office. You will gain an understanding of some dental procedures such as teeth whitening and infection control. Also, various dental terminologies, dentistry instruments and equipment will be explored. Register for this course here.

Sources and References

Lasers in Apicoectomy: A Brief Review by Zahed Mohammadi, Sousan Shalayi et al

Dental Caries by Robert Selwitz, Amid Ismail and Nigel Pitts 

Fluoride Prevents Caries Among Adults of All Ages by C Albert Yeung

Dental Caries: A Disease Which Needs Attention by Vijay Mathur and Jatinder Dhillon

Halitosis: The Multidisciplinary Approach by Curd Bollen and Thomas Beikler

Reader’s Digest Family Health Guide and Medical Encyclopedia


Rich Health Editorial Team

Health Research

Rich Health Editorial Team is made up of medical practitioners and experienced writers who provide information for dealing with health issues in a simple and easy-to-understand manner