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The acids formed by plaque can be counteracted simply by saliva in your mouth, which acts as a buffer and remineralizing agent. Dentists often recommend chewing sugarless gum to stimulate your flow of saliva. However, though it is the body's natural defense against cavities, saliva alone is not sufficient to combat tooth decay. The best way to prevent cavities is to brush and floss regularly. To rebuild the early damage caused by plaque bacteria, we use fluoride, a natural substance that helps to remineralize the tooth structure. Fluoride is added to toothpaste to fight cavities. The most common source of fluoride is in the water we drink. Fluoride is added to most community water supplies and to many bottled and canned beverages.
If you are at medium- to high-risk for cavities, your dentist may recommend special high-concentration fluoride gels, mouthrinses or dietary fluoride supplements. Your dentist may also use professional strength anti-cavity varnish, or sealants – thin, plastic coatings that provide an extra barrier against food and debris.
Reviewed: January 2012
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