As the cliche goes, “Prevention is better than cure;” but when it comes to our oral health, most of us really don’t pay much attention and nearly everybody hates going to the dentist. More often than not, we are only forced to go when there’s already a problem, and when that problem – in the form of a toothache – can no longer be ignored.

One of the most common dental problems, and one that can be easily prevented is a tooth cavity. The University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry reports that “Tooth decay, an infectious disease — is the second most common disease, after the common cold.”

Regular brushing, flossing, and dental visits are the most obvious and important measures for good oral health. In addition to this oral care trifecta, here are other simple ways to avoid cavities.

Using the right toothbrush and proper brushing technique.

Brushing your teeth after every meal, and especially before going to bed, is an absolute necessity so that the billions of bacteria in our mouth won’t have the chance to produce enough waste to create plaque (after they feed on the sugars in our mouth), and eventually produce acids that wear down the enamel and ultimately create cavities.

But just as important is using the right toothbrush and proper brushing technique. It is a common misconception that a hard-bristled toothbrush does the best job in cleaning teeth. On the contrary, hard bristles do more harm than good, as they can cause injury to your gums and even chip away at your teeth, especially near the gum line.

Soft bristles are gentle on the gums and teeth and do a much better job of getting into the hard-to-reach places in between teeth. When brushing, place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums. Apply gentle pressure; use short, back-and-forth strokes for the inner teeth, and up-and-down or circular strokes for the front teeth. Don’t forget to also gently brush your tongue, and to replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months.

Reducing teeth exposure to acids by drinking more water.

Especially if you’re a coffee or tea drinker, and even more so if you’re a coffee addict, immediately rinsing off the acidic drink with water after you finish your cup is important to “neutralize” and wash away the acids and sugars. Again, the longer they stay in your mouth and saliva, the greater the possibility that they will cause damage to your teeth.

The same applies to other sugary drinks and food, and even non-sugary items. Always drink plenty of water with your meals, and especially right after eating. This is the easiest way to prevent plaque build-up, especially if you don’t have time to brush. Rinsing with mouthwash is also highly recommended, especially if you snack a lot, as it has the added benefit of fluoride.

Eat foods that actually prevent tooth decay.

You already know that sugary and acidic foods are bad for your oral health, not to mention overall health. And while it may be hard to stay away from them, at the very least, you can also add foods that support oral health to your regular diet.

You can get calcium – the number one nutrient when it comes to fighting tooth decay – from dairy, leafy greens, beans, and certain nuts.

Fiber keeps the saliva flowing, which prevents the buildup of plaque and acids. You can get your daily dose of good fiber from fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin B, iron, and magnesium are all important for healthy gums, teeth, and bones. And in addition to having a high-fiber content, whole grains are also rich in the aforementioned vitamins and nutrients. The best choices are bran, brown rice, and whole-grain cereals and pasta.