Our teeth chomp through a variety of food day and night. But we don’t really give them a second thought till a gaping hole in a tooth or a stabbing twinge makes their presence felt. Cavities don’t develop overnight but are a result of prolonged tooth decay over time. But the good news is it is possible to stop and even reverse tooth decay in the initial stages!
Tooth decay can be halted and even reversed in the initial stages. But once a cavity develops, it cannot be reversed naturally and will have to be filled in by a dentist.1
Tooth decay occurs when harmful bacteria that cover your teeth in a thin film (plaque) produce acids using sugars from foods. This acid eats away at your tooth enamel, eventually leading to a cavity or hole in the tooth. Minerals like phosphate and calcium present in your saliva and even fluoride from water or toothpaste can replace minerals lost during an acid attack and help repair tooth enamel. In fact, even after you get that tell-tale early sign of tooth decay – a white spot where your tooth has lost minerals, it is possible to reverse the damage. To ward off cavities and tackle tooth decay, try these simple remedies and tips which tackle harmful bacteria or help with tooth remineralization.2
1. Limit Sugary And Sticky Foods
The harmful bacteria present in your mouth use sugar to produce teeth-damaging acid, so sugary foods can increase your chances of getting a cavity. Foods with added sugar like soda, juice, candy, toffee, and cookies help produce enamel-destroying acid that accelerates tooth decay. Foods that stick to your teeth are also offenders as they stay in touch with your teeth for a longer period.3
2. Avoid Frequent Snacking
When you snack frequently, your teeth are exposed to foods that can be used to produce acids that destroy your enamel. This means your teeth face an acid attack before they’ve had a chance to remineralize after the last time you ate. Also, your mouth produces less acid-fighting saliva during snacking as opposed to regular meals. Sipping on sugary or flavored drinks also has the same impact. These factors together may set you up for tooth decay. Cut down on snacking between meals to limit the number of acid attacks on your teeth and to give them time to remineralize.4 5
3. Rinse Your Mouth After You Eat
Good oral hygiene can also go a long way in halting tooth decay. Rinse out your mouth with plain water after you eat something to dislodge food particles stuck in your mouth. This can also reduce bacteria in your mouth by as much as 30%.6 Brushing twice a day and flossing should also be a part of your daily routine to keep your teeth healthy and prevent decay.
4. Use A Guava Leaf Paste
Guava leaves have antibacterial properties and have been found to work against common oral pathogens such as Streptococcus mutans. Flavonoids like guaijaverin and quercetin present in the leaves are thought to be responsible for their antibacterial effect. Grind tender guava leaves into a paste and apply that to your teeth to get rid of harmful bacteria. Gently rub with a finger and rinse afterward. You can also make a simple mouthwash by boiling 4 to 5 leaves in water and adding a little salt.7 Use this twice a day.
5. Rinse With A Sage Mouthwash
You may know sage as a culinary herb but it also has antibacterial properties and is effective against oral bacteria. Beneficial compounds such as 1,8-cineole, thujone, and camphor are thought to account for this effect. Take a teaspoon of this dried herb, crush it, and add to salt water for an antibacterial mouthwash. Swirl around in your mouth for about 5 minutes 2–3 times a day to tackle teeth-damaging bacteria.8 9
6. Try A Lemongrass Oil Mouthwash
According to a study where the participants used a 0.25% lemongrass oil mouthwash twice a day for 21 days, it worked effectively against plaque as well as gum inflammation. In fact, it was found to be comparable to chlorhexidine, a common antibacterial mouthwash. Lemongrass contains many compounds like limonene, linalool, citral, citronellal, and geraniol which may work to prevent the formation of bacterial biofilms on teeth.
Mix 2–3 drops of aromatic lemongrass oil in a cup of water to prepare an effective antibacterial mouthwash.10
7. Oil Pull With Sesame Oil
Oil pulling is an ancient technique recommended in ayurveda for tackling oral pathogens. And research indicates that it can decrease dental plaque and gum inflammation. This process involves swishing edible oils such as sesame oil or even coconut oil which act against oral pathogens in your mouth.11 12
Here’s how you go about it. Take a tablespoon of coconut or sesame oil into your mouth and suck and pull it between your teeth for around 10 to 15 minutes. The oil should turn milky white in color by then. Now spit out the oil. Take care not to swallow the oil since it now contains germs from your mouth.
8. Use A Fluoride Toothpaste Or Mouthwash
Fluoride is a mineral that’s naturally present in our body as well as in many foods and water. It helps in the remineralization of teeth and makes the enamel harder. So using a fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash can help counter tooth decay. Toothpaste for adults should ideally contain around 1350 parts per million fluoride.13 14
But while fluoride can help keep your teeth healthy, like other minerals and vitamins, it can be harmful if consumed in excessive amounts. Therefore, experts recommend that children under 2 should not use fluoride toothpaste as they’re likely to swallow it and exceed the amount that can be consumed at their age. Also, because of the intense controversy and (unresolved) debate around fluoride usage especially in water, whether or not you would try this remains a personal choice.
9. Chew Sugar-Free Gum
Chewing sugar-free gum can also enhance remineralization. It stimulates the flow of saliva, which plays an important role in fighting tooth decay. Saliva helps restore lost minerals from your teeth since it contains trace amounts of phosphate and calcium. In fact, around 20 minutes after you have something to eat, saliva starts to reduce the effect of acids attacking your teeth.15
One study found that using a xylitol chewing gum 4 times a day for a week significantly improved remineralization of caries-like lesions present on teeth. The presence of xylitol, funoran, and calcium hydrogen phosphate made it work much better than plain gum since xylitol, a sugar alcohol, reduces dental caries, while funoran, a compound extracted from red seaweed, inhibits oral bacteria. Calcium hydrogen phosphate enhances the concentration of calcium and phosphate in saliva.16
10. Have Yogurt
A Japanese study that looked at 3-year-old children observed that those who consumed yogurt 4 times or more a week had significantly less dental caries than those who had it less than once a week. This beneficial effect could be due to the presence of calcium which can help in the remineralization of teeth.1718 So go ahead and add yogurt to your daily diet to fight tooth decay.
|↑1, ↑2||The Tooth Decay Process: How to Reverse It and Avoid a Cavity. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑3||Top 9 Foods That Damage Your Teeth. American Dental Association.|
|↑4||Snacking and Cavities. Program For Early Parent Support.|
|↑5||Eating habits for a healthy smile and body. American Dental Association.|
|↑6||Periodontal disease. University of Maryland.|
|↑7||Ravi, K., and P. Divyashree. “Psidium guajava: A review on its potential as an adjunct in treating periodontal disease.” Pharmacognosy reviews 8, no. 16 (2014): 96.|
|↑8||Abu-Darwish, M. S., C. Cabral, I. V. Ferreira, M. J. Gonçalves, C. Cavaleiro, M. T. Cruz, T. H. Al-Bdour, and L. Salgueiro. “Essential oil of common sage (Salvia officinalis L.) from Jordan: Assessment of safety in mammalian cells and its antifungal and anti-inflammatory potential.” BioMed research international 2013 (2013).|
|↑9||Smullen, Joanne, Michelle Finney, David M. Storey, and Howard A. Foster. “Prevention of artificial dental plaque formation in vitro by plant extracts.” Journal of applied microbiology 113, no. 4 (2012): 964-973.|
|↑10||Dany, Subha Soumya, Pritam Mohanty, Pradeep Tangade, Prashant Rajput, and Manu Batra. “Efficacy of 0.25% lemongrass oil mouthwash: A three arm prospective parallel clinical study.” Journal of clinical and diagnostic research: JCDR 9, no. 10 (2015): ZC13.|
|↑11||An, T. Durai, C. Pothiraj, R. M. Gopinath, and B. Kayalvizhi. “Effect of oil-pulling on dental caries causing bacteria.” African Journal of Microbiology Research 2, no. 3 (2008): 63-66.|
|↑12||Peedikayil, Faizal C., Prathima Sreenivasan, and Arun Narayanan. “Effect of coconut oil in plaque-related gingivitis—A preliminary report.” Nigerian medical journal: journal of the Nigeria Medical Association 56, no. 2 (2015): 143.|
|↑13||10 tips to look after your teeth. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑14||Fluoride (updated 2017). Australian Government.|
|↑15, ↑18||The Best and Worst Foods for Your Teeth. University of Rochester Medical Center.|
|↑16||Thaweboon, Sroisiri, Siriruk Nakornchai, Yasuo Miyake, Takaaki Yanagisawa, Boonyanit Thaweboon, Surin Soo-Ampon, and Duangjai Lexomboon. “Remineralization of enamel subsurface lesions by xylitol chewing gum containing funoran and calcium hydrogenphosphate.” Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health 40, no. 2 (2009): 345.|
|↑17||Tanaka, Keiko, Yoshihiro Miyake, and Satoshi Sasaki. “Intake of dairy products and the prevalence of dental caries in young children.” Journal of dentistry 38, no. 7 (2010): 579-583.|