Tooth decay and children no longer have to go hand in hand. At our office we are most concerned with all aspects of preventive care. Our goal is to set the foundation for your child’s lifetime of good oral health.
What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay is a bacterial infection that causes demineralization (destruction) of hard tooth structure. It is the result of acid production by the oral bacteria. There are several types of bacteria that naturally live in our mouths and on our teeth. When sugar is consumed, the bacteria “eat” the sugar and produce an acid. It is this acid that demineralizes or dissolves the tooth structure resulting in what is known as a cavity.
How can I prevent cavities?
Limiting sugar intake and its frequency is a first step in preventing cavities. Every time we eat, an acid reaction occurs in the mouth. The bacteria digest the sugars that we have consumed and produce an acid which can destroy tooth structure. So, by limiting the amount and frequency of sugar intake, less acid is produced and therefore, less demineralization of the teeth occur.
Tips or cavity prevention:
- Limit the frequency of meals and snacks – this will reduce the amount of time the mouth becomes acidic and easy for the bacteria to produce the acid which creates decay
- Encourage brushing, flossing and rinsing
- Avoid sticky foods -retentive foods tend to stick to the biting surfaces and in between the teeth making them available for the bacteria to “eat”
- Make treats part of a meal
- Choose nutritious snacks
- Be aware of what your child drinks – energy drinks and soda contain significant amounts of sugar.
Can my child’s diet and hygiene affect their dental health?
Absolutely. It is important to provide your child with a balanced diet so that their teeth develop appropriately. In addition, this will positively affect healthy gum tissue surrounding the teeth. A balanced diet is one that includes the major food groups daily: Fruits and Vegetables, Breads and Cereals, Milk and Dairy products, Meat, Fish and Eggs. Please be aware that a diet high in sugar and other forms of carbohydrates may increase the risk of tooth decay.
Also important is the frequency with which your child eats: the more frequently the snacking, the greater the risk for dental decay. Those foods high in sugar and/or carbohydrates, and those that are sticky and retentive will increase the risk even more.
Sugar is found in more than just candy. It is found in many processed foods, even those that do not taste sweet. Most milk-based products contain sugar. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich not only contains sugar in the jelly but also in the peanut butter! For less sugar, try replacing the jelly with fresh fruit slices.
If you do not reside in a community that has optimal fluoridation and have the appropriate amount of natural fluoride in your well water, your child may need a fluoride supplement in their diet during the years of tooth development. We can help you determine how much of a supplement, if any, your child needs.
For children not yet on solid foods, do not put them to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, formula or any sweetened drink. Do not nurse your child to sleep, either. While your child is sleeping, the unswallowed liquid bathes the teeth with sugar and supports the bacteria that can produce acids and harm the teeth. A pacifier or bottle of water is fine!