To prevent tooth decay:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste. Preferably, brush after each meal and especially before going to bed.
- Clean between your teeth daily with dental floss or interdental cleaners.
- Rinse daily with a fluoride-containing mouthwash. Some rinses also have antiseptic ingredients to help kill bacteria that cause plaque.
- Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacks.
- Check with your dentist about the 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.
- Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exam.
Researchers are developing new means to prevent tooth decay. One study found 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.