How to Prevent Cavities & Gum Disease | RTD
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How to Prevent Cavities and Gum Disease

brushign teeth

Most oral health problems are caused by bacteria that build up on the teeth in a sticky layer called plaque. If plaque isn’t removed effectively, this can lead to teeth wearing down and cavities forming. If plaque builds up around the gums, it can also lead to gum disease, a major cause of tooth loss in adults.

Cavities and gum disease are among the most common oral health problems, but they are also preventable. Understanding the causes and risk factors for cavities and gum disease is the first step in lowering your risks and improving the health of your teeth and gums for life.

If you think you might have a cavity or gum disease and you want to see a Gold Coast dentist, call us on 07 5575 9100 or book a consultation today.

What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay (also called dental caries) is the erosion of teeth by acids produced by bacteria. These acids are released when germs in plaque feed on sugar and other carbohydrates in food and drink. If the process isn’t stopped, it can lead to cavities (holes) forming in the teeth.

Tooth decay and cavities can affect people of any age. They don’t always have obvious symptoms, but some common signs include:

  • Toothache, or pain when you bite
  • Tooth feeling more sensitive to temperature or sweetness
  • Visible damage to teeth
  • White, brown or black flecks on the tooth surface, especially close to the gum

If tooth decay isn’t treated, cavities may get larger, affecting more of the tooth. If decay exposes the soft interior of the tooth, this can lead to an infection or an abscess, which may be a dental emergency. If too much of a tooth’s structure is lost, it may not be possible to repair, in which case it may need to be removed.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease (periodontal disease) is also caused by bacteria in plaque. When plaque builds up around the gums, germs can infect or irritate the gums, leading to an inflammation response.

In the early stage of gum disease, known as gingivitis, the gums may look red and swollen, feel sore, or bleed easily when brushed. If gingivitis isn’t effectively treated, it can develop into more advanced periodontitis. This can lead to permanent damage of the gums, loss of bone tissue, and eventually tooth loss.

Other signs of gum disease can include bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth. Visibly receding gums or teeth feeling loose can be signs of more severe periodontitis. Gingivitis can usually be treated by improving your oral hygiene, while periodontitis may require more intensive treatment or minor gum surgery.

What can I do to prevent cavities and gum disease?

Tooth decay and gum disease are preventable oral diseases. They can usually be avoided by taking steps to improve your oral hygiene and lowering your risk factors. However, if you already have a cavity or signs of gum disease, these will need to be treated by a dentist.


Teeth should be brushed at least twice a day for two minutes using fluoride toothpaste to help reduce plaque and associated problems. Whether you prefer a manual or electric toothbrush, choose a product with soft bristles and replace your toothbrush or toothbrush head at least every 3 months.

Teeth shouldn’t be brushed too soon after eating or drinking. This is because acids in food and drinks can soften the enamel temporarily, and brushing may cause damage. Teeth may also be damaged if you brush too roughly or use a hard toothbrush.


It’s also important to floss around your teeth at least once a day. If you find traditional floss uncomfortable, there are other options such as interdental brushes and water flossers that may be as effective. Like brushing, thorough flossing should take around two minutes.

If your dentist thinks you need to improve your oral hygiene, they may also recommend a fluoride mouthwash.

Healthy diet

Bacteria in plaque feed on sugar when you do, so limiting sugar in your diet can reduce their growth and reduce acid attacks on your teeth. Foods that stick to the teeth or get trapped between them can also do more damage than those that wash away easily.

It’s not only about what you consume, but when. Having occasional sugary food and drinks at mealtimes does less damage than frequent snacking or sipping, as these actions can repeatedly expose your teeth to acids throughout the day.

A balanced diet can provide many valuable vitamins and minerals to support your teeth and your oral health and lower your overall risks. It’s also important to drink plenty of water, especially fluoridated water that helps to reduce and prevent plaque build-up.

Lowering your risk factors

Quitting smoking or cutting down can lower your risk of developing gum disease, among other problems. Smoking is a risk factor for gum disease because it weakens the immune system, and it can also affect the ability of the gums to heal after damage.

Some medical conditions or medications can also increase oral health risks. For example, medications that cause dry mouth as a side effect can reduce saliva in the mouth, which is important for reducing bacteria and neutralising acids. Doctors may be able to recommend alternative medications or treatments to help lower your risks.

Regular dental visits

Even with good daily care, it’s not possible to remove all plaque from your teeth, especially when it hardens into tartar (calculus). That’s one reason why it’s important to visit a dental clinic for regular check-ups and oral hygiene treatments.

During your visit, a dentist or hygienist can professionally clean and scale your teeth to remove plaque and tartar that’s built up since your last visit. They can also apply fluoride to provide a protective barrier against further plaque build-up, as well as offering tips and advice about oral care.

Regular check-ups also improve the chances of your dentist seeing warning signs of tooth decay or gum disease at an early stage, before they cause serious damage, and when treatment is often easier.

Preventing tooth decay and cavities in children

Children are most vulnerable to tooth decay and cavities, as the primary (baby) teeth are thinner and weaker than adult teeth.

Children who have a high amount of sugar in their diets are particularly at risk, so parents should avoid giving too many sugary treats and look for sugar-free alternatives. Fruit juices and soft drinks can be especially damaging for teeth, as they are also acidic, which contributes to tooth wear.

Parents of young children should avoid sharing their food and spoons, as this can pass oral bacteria to children. Babies and toddlers should also not be put to bed with a bottle, as this can keep sugary liquids in contact with the teeth for many hours.

Dentists often recommend dental sealants as a preventive treatment for children. This is a painless treatment that involves filling small gaps in the teeth to make them more resistant to decay and cavities.

How are cavities treated?

To diagnose a cavity and recommend the best treatment, your dentist first needs to examine your mouth and take an x-ray. The most suitable treatment will depend on how much of the tooth is damaged.

  • The most common treatment for a cavity is a filling. Most dentists use white composite fillings that are painless to apply and can blend with your natural tooth colour.
  • For more severe damage or weaker teeth, a dental crown may be recommended. These are custom-made caps fitted over teeth to restore their appearance and offer protection.
  • If decay has reached the centre of the tooth, a root canal treatment may be needed to remove damaged tissue and protect the tooth from future infections.
  • If a tooth is too badly damaged by decay, the only option may be to extract it. Your dentist will discuss options for replacing the tooth and maintaining your bite and smile.

How is gum disease treated?

Dentists can diagnose gum disease and its severity by examining your gums and taking x-rays of your teeth and jaws. Treatment for gum disease depends on how advanced it is.

  • Gingivitis can usually be reversed by improving your oral hygiene, having hygiene treatments at the dental clinic and taking any other actions recommended to lower your risks, like quitting smoking.
  • More severe periodontitis may require deep cleaning to remove infected tissue and bacteria from under the gums. This may be combined with antibiotics to help clear the infection.
  • If gum disease has resulted in permanent damage, your dentist may discuss treatments such as gum grafting.

See a Gold Coast dentist

Do you think you might have a cavity or gum disease, or has it been longer than 6 months since you visited the dentist? Contact our friendly team at Robina Town Dental to book an appointment with our experienced dentists.

Call 07 5575 9100 or or visit our Gold Coast dental clinic in Robina Town Centre. We welcome patients from all neighbouring suburbs including Burleigh Heads, Mudgeeraba, Miami, Varsity Lakes, Burleigh Waters, Merrimac, Mermaid Waters, Worongary and Clear Island Waters.

Call Now: 07 5575 9100