Tooth Decay Prevention
Tooth decay is a progressive disease resulting in the interaction of bacteria that naturally occur on the teeth and sugars in the everyday diet. However, not all people are at the same risk of getting decay, so please let us at CDO evaluate and determine if your child is high or low risk for getting cavities. Sugar causes a reaction in the bacteria, causing it to produce acids that break down the mineral in teeth, forming a cavity. Dentists remove the decay and fill the tooth using a variety of fillings, restoring the tooth to a healthy state. Nerve damage can result from severe decay and may require a crown (a crown is like a large filling that can cap a tooth, making it stronger or covering it). Avoiding unnecessary decay simply requires strict adherence to a dental hygiene regimen: brushing and flossing twice a day, regular dental check-ups, diet control and fluoride treatment. Practicing good hygiene avoids unhealthy teeth and costly treatment.
Children are often offered snacks throughout the day, so their teeth are at risk, even with snacks commonly believed to be healthy. Dr. Oliver knows that snacking wisely has a direct influence on preventing tooth decay. New research emphasizes that we should not only watch what we eat, but more importantly, minimize the frequency of snacking, sipping and nibbling between meals. One big snack is better than three little ones. This is particularly important at night, since the saliva flow that normally protects teeth during the day decreases substantially during sleep.
Soft Drinks and Sour Candies
Contact with acidic (sour) food or drink can cause enamel loss. Dr. Oliver warns against three particularly harmful products commonly consumed by children: soft drinks, low-pH sports drinks and sour candies. Soft drinks not only contain large amounts of sugar, but can also lower the pH of the mouth. Most soft drinks are a combination of phosphoric acid, citric acid, sugar and water. The pH of such drinks is usually 3.0 or lower, which can soften enamel in less than five minutes. Tangy, low pH sports drinks are also major offenders. Although diet drinks replace the sugar with artificial sweeteners, the acidic ingredients are still present, making the pH just as dangerous to teeth.
The grooves and depressions that form the chewing surfaces of the back teeth are extremely difficult (if not impossible) to clean of bacteria and food. As the bacteria reacts with the food, acids form and break down the tooth enamel, causing cavities. Recent studies indicate that 88 percent of total cavities in American school children are caused this way.
Tooth sealants protect these susceptible areas by sealing the grooves and depressions, preventing bacteria and food particles from residing in these areas. Sealant material is a resin typically applied to the back teeth, molars and premolars and areas prone to cavities. It lasts for several years but needs to be checked during regular appointments.
Fluoride is a substance that helps teeth become stronger and resistant to decay. Regularly drinking water treated with fluoride and brushing and flossing regularly ensures significantly lower cavities. Dentists can evaluate the level of fluoride in a primary drinking water source and recommend fluoride supplements (usually in tablets or drops), if necessary.
Sucking is a natural reflex that relaxes and comforts babies and toddlers. Children usually cease thumb-sucking before the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. Typically, children stop between the ages of 2 and 4 years. Thumb-sucking that persists beyond the eruption of primary teeth can cause improper growth of the mouth and misalignment of the teeth. If you notice prolonged and/or vigorous thumb-sucking behavior in your child, talk to your CDO pediatric dentist.
Here are some ways to help your child outgrow thumb-sucking:
- Don’t scold a child when they exhibit thumb-sucking behavior; instead, praise them when they don’t suck his/her thumb.
- Dr. Oliver has special expertise in this area and has lectured extensively about a new behavioral approach to help the parents with these difficult situations. While some thumb- and pacifier-sucking habits that go on for a long period of time can create crowded, crooked teeth or bite problems, most children can be helped to stop these habits on their own. However, if they are still sucking their thumbs or fingers when the permanent teeth arrive, a mouth appliance may be recommended by your CDO pediatric dentist or orthodontist.
- Occasionally praise them when they refrain from the habit during difficult periods.
- Do not place a bandage on the thumb or a sock on their hand at night unless we have evaluated and have recommended how to do so.