What is a Cavity?
A cavity is formed when bacteria in the mouth (strep mutans) turn sugar and carbohydrates into acid which attacks the teeth.
Why does my child get so many cavities?
- Improper brushing and flossing
- Diet high in sugar
- Lack of fluoride
- Weak enamel
How Do I Prevent Cavities?
Good oral hygiene removes bacteria and the left over food particles that combine to create cavities. For infants, use a wet gauze or clean washcloth to wipe the plaque from teeth and gums. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water. See "Baby Bottle Tooth Decay" for more information.
For older children, brush their teeth at least twice a day. Also, watch the number of snacks and beverages containing sugar that you give your child.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends visits every six months to the pediatric dentist, beginning at your child’s first birthday. Routine visits will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health.
Your pediatric dentist may also recommend protective sealants or home fluoride treatments for your child. Sealants can be applied to your child’s molars to prevent decay on hard to clean surfaces.
Regular Dental Visits
One of the best ways to care for your child’s teeth is to bring them to our office twice a year for a cleaning. This will allow us to keep close tabs on their oral health, hygiene, growth and development, as well as provide a topical fluoride treatment to strengthen their tooth enamel. An additional benefit of routine visits is the creation of a trusting relationship between our dental team and your child, which will help prevent future dental phobias.
Cleaning Of Your Child's Teeth
- According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, parents should assist with brushing until age 8. Click here to learn how to clean your infant's teeth and gums.
- Brushing should be done for at least one minute twice a day. Most of us probably don’t brush for 15 seconds. Encourage your child to use a timer.
- Brushing at bedtime is extremely important. Food that sits on the teeth all night will cause cavities.
- Toothbrushes should have soft bristles and should be replaced as needed-they do not last 6 months. A regular, soft, properly sized toothbrush works as well as an electric toothbrush. Choose whatever your child will use.
- We recommend using fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first tooth erupts. Young children often swallow toothpaste so it is important to use a very small smear.
- Flossing between teeth is also very important. This should be done once a day to prevent cavities between the teeth. Decay between the teeth is often aggressive, frustrating, and can only be detected when a child is old enough to take x-rays. Children who are prone to cavities between the teeth may need to have x-rays taken more frequently.
- If you are a separated family unit, please be sure that your child has proper oral hygiene “stuff” at each living location. Everyone needs to be on the same page.
What's The Best Toothpaste For My Child?
Tooth brushing is one of the most important tasks for good oral health. We recommend using any FDA approved toothpaste as long as it contains fluoride. However, we do NOT encourage the use of whitening toothpaste or anti-tartar toothpaste unless we specifically recommend it for your child. Many children do not spit well until around age 4. We still recommend the use of a fluoride containing paste for these children. Please be sure to use only a very thin smear (as shown in the photo below).
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that is found in soil, water and food. Numerous studies have shown that fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, thus making it less susceptible to dental caries (cavities). We will talk with you about all of your child's fluoride sources at their initial appointment. Most municipal water supplies have added fluoride while well water supplies have only whatever occurs naturally in the ground. If you have well water, we will test the fluoride level and provide a fluoride supplement if necessary. Toothpastes, rinses and gels contain fluoride and provide excellent prevention against cavities. We will assess your child's age and risk level for cavities and recommend the appropriate fluoride regimen for their specific needs. Children who are high-risk for cavities will need more fluoride exposure than children who are low-risk. Your child will receive a fluoride treatment every six months in our office (or more frequently if they are extremely high-risk).
Despite its benefits, excessive ingestion of fluoride by preschool-aged children can lead to dental fluorosis, which is a chalky white to even brown discoloration of the permanent teeth. We recommend a small smear of toothpaste for young children to prevent excess ingestion and we avoid recommending rinses for children under age five. Please ask us if you have any questions regarding our fluoride recommendations for your child.
Good Diet = Healthy Teeth
Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. Most snacks that children eat can lead to cavity formation. The more frequently a child snacks, the greater the chance for tooth decay. The length of time food remains in the mouth also plays a role. For example, hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which cause longer acid attacks on tooth enamel. If your child must snack, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese, which are healthier and better for children’s teeth.
Beware of Sports Drinks
Due to the high sugar content and acids in sports drinks, they have erosive potential and the ability to dissolve enamel, which can lead to cavities.
To minimize dental problems, children should avoid sports drinks and hydrate with water before, during and after sports.
A sealant is a protective coating that is applied to the chewing surfaces (grooves) of the permanent molars, where most cavities occur. Sealants will allow for easier cleaning and will prevent food from getting trapped in the grooves, thus decrease chances of cavity formation.
Injuries can occur when a child participates in recreational activities and organized sports. A properly fitted mouth guard, or mouth protector, is an important piece of athletic gear that can help protect your child’s smile, and should be used during any activity that could result in a blow to the face or mouth.
Mouth guards help prevent broken teeth, and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw. A properly fitted mouth guard will stay in place while your child is wearing it, making it easy for them to talk and breathe.
Ask us about custom and store-bought mouth protectors.