Root Canal Prevention
If left untreated, a simple cavity can progress to damage to the tooth’s root, leading to the need for a pricey — and less-than-desirable — root canal. But fortunately, there are some simple dental health habits that can lessen the chances that you’ll need to go that route. “The most important thing in preventing a root canal isn’t seeing the dentist, but rather the daily diet and oral health regimen of the patient,” says Dr. Chad Denman, DDS, an oral surgeon at Family Tree Dental Group in Austin, Texas. “Prevention is the key to avoiding a root canal, and that starts at home.” Here’s what you need to do to preserve your healthy smile.
• Practice good dental hygiene. “It seems obvious, but patients should brush their teeth twice a day, particularly before bed,” Dr. Denman recommends. Regular brushing and flossing can help limit plaque buildup and tooth decay—making it less likely that you develop cavities and damage that can lead to the need for root canals. Regular dental checkups every six months let your dentist give your mouth a thorough exam. “That way, cavities may be caught and treated when they’re small, before they balloon into a serious problem,” Denman says.
• Make sure you’re getting some fluoride. Use fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash to keep your teeth clean. The fluoride can help strengthen your enamel and improve your dental health. It’s especially important to use fluoridated products if you live in an area where your water supply is not fluoridated.
• Maintain a healthy diet. It’s not just about providing vitamins and minerals to nourish your teeth from the inside—what you eat can also work from the outside, too. “Diets high in unprocessed food also assist in building healthy teeth – the act of crunching helps keep teeth clean,” Denman says. Try crunchy foods like raw carrots and apples.
• Drink plenty of water. Plain old H2O can help keep the mouth hydrated and rinse away cavity-causing sugars and acids. Be especially wary of indulging in sugary juices and sodas. “Sports drinks, energy drinks, juices and sodas all have high amounts of sugars and/or acids that can lead to cavities,” Denman says. If you do decide to indulge in a sugary drink, Denman suggests drinking it in one sitting, rather than taking tiny sips all day. “Sipping on a drink with acids keeps the pH/acid level in the mouth very low for a long period of time, which weakens the enamel. Sipping on a drink with sugars creates a heightened amount of bacteria, which can lead to cavities.” Consider brushing or rinsing your mouth out with water after you finish a drink that’s high in sugars or acids, to help limit damage and prevent root canals.