Do you or your family members get cavities frequently? Dental research has identified factors that increase your risk of getting decay. Next time you visit the dental office, ask about your risk factors and discuss the best ways to reduce your risks and limit dental decay.

To prevent your teeth from decaying, you can do two things — strengthen your teeth’s defenses with fluoride and sealants, and reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth.

Fluoride strengthens teeth by penetrating the tooth structure and replacing lost minerals to repair acid damage. Everyone should brush with a fluoride toothpaste every day. Dental offices sometimes recommend additional toothpastes, gels and mouthrinses for both children and adults.

Sealants are protective coatings placed over the tops of chewing teeth — molars and premolars. They block bacteria and acids from sticking in the tiny grooves on the chewing surfaces of these teeth. Children should get sealants soon after their teeth erupt into the mouth.

Although you can never get rid of all the bacteria in your mouth, you can control bacteria by brushing regularly and flossing daily, seeing your dentist and dental hygienist regularly for a thorough cleaning and check-up, and reducing the number of times each day that you consume fermentable carbohydrates.

Some prescription mouthwashes (those that contain chlorhexidine) can help prevent decay by reducing the number of bacteria in the mouth. Chewing sugarless gums, especially those with xylitol, can help reduce decay and increase the flow of saliva.

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