Most of the time, cavities are due to a diet high in sugary foods and a lack of brushing.
Limiting sugar intake and brushing regularly, of course, can help. The longer it takes your child to chew their food, the longer the residue stays on their teeth and the greater the chances of getting cavities.
Every time someone eats, an acid reaction occurs inside their mouth as the bacteria digests the sugars. This reaction lasts approximately 20 minutes. During this time the acid environment can destroy the tooth structure, eventually leading to cavities.
Consistency of a person’s saliva also makes a difference as thinner saliva breaks up and washes away food more quickly. When a person eats diets high in carbohydrates and sugars, they tend to have thicker saliva, which in turn produces more of the acid-producing bacteria that causes cavities.
How can our dental professionals help?
- ORAL HYGIENE INSTRUCTION: At each check-up, our staff will individually work with your child, showing them areas they need to work better at cleaning, and teaching them how to do so! This will help lead to better future check-ups and good hygiene practices for years to come.
- FLUORIDE TREATMENTS: If desired, our staff will place age-appropriate fluoride treatments on your child’s teeth following their dental cleaning and check-up. Topical fluoride is a great tool in the fight against dental decay because it helps strengthen the outer tooth surface, making it harder for a cavity to start! But not everyone needs it… based on age, risk factors, and family practices we can cater this option to meet your child’s dental needs.
- SEALANTS: We use the latest in sealant technology to protect your child’s teeth. Sealants are plastic coatings that are bonded to the chewing surfaces of decay-prone back teeth. Our sealant materials are BPA-free, and we use the latest curing-technology so we can complete sealants quickly!
Some general tips for cavity prevention:
- Limit frequency of meals and snacks. Children should have three meals a day and two “snack times.”
- Encourage brushing and flossing.
- Watch what you drink. Sugary drinks can cause cavities between teeth.
- Avoid sticky foods.
- Make treats part of meals. Having a treat for dessert right after meal-time is better than in between meals.
- Choose nutritious snacks. Ask the pediatric dentist or pediatrician for recommendations!
- Establish a Dental Home by your child’s first birthday. Visiting the pediatric dentist early will help avoid future dental problems.
- Your baby may start “cutting teeth” at 6-months of age or earlier! With the eruption of the first baby tooth, start brushing your child’s teeth in the morning and before bedtime. This is an important habit to establish. For tips on brushing your infant’s teeth, click here, or ask your pediatric dentist!
- Stop nursing or bottle-feeding while your child is asleep at night if possible. Most 6-month olds do not require those extra calories at night for healthy growth!
- Continue nursing as long as you or your infant would like. Avoiding “on-demand” breast feeding as your infant continues to grow will help your baby learn and maintain good eating practices.
- Start to teach your baby to drink from a cup at about six months of age. This can be a messy learning process! Plan to stop using a bottle by 12 to 14 months at the latest. By 12 months, your child should be able to drink from an open cup.
- Don’t dip your child’s pacifier in honey or sugar.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend that your child take a bottle into the crib and feed unsupervised. This practice could lead to dental caries, ear infections, and possible choking. However, if your infant requires a bottle or sippy cup to go to sleep, use only water! Do not let your child go to sleep with a sippy cup or bottle containing milk, formula, or juice.
- Start brushing with your child as soon as they have teeth! This can be a difficult task, so don’t lose heart. Ask your dental staff for tips and pointers to make brushing easier. Starting healthy habits early will help your child learn the importance of taking care of their teeth. Brushing will get easier the more you work at it!
- Brush your child’s teeth twice a day, in the morning and before bedtime. Brushing at night before bed is most important and should be the last thing your child does before getting tucked in!
- Children should have adult supervision while brushing until they are 6-to-8 years old. For very young children, this will involve actual brushing by an adult. Older children are encouraged to brush alone first and have an adult brush afterwards. Children don’t have the coordination in their hand and wrist to brush well alone. They may miss some teeth altogether! Ask you pediatric dentist for tips on how to brush your child’s teeth.
- Once back teeth touch together, you should start flossing with your child. This will be reviewed during check-ups by our dental staff, and usually occurs around 4 or 5 years of age.
- Children should avoid soda pop and other sugary beverages which aren’t healthy for their growth! The AAP and AAPD recommend one cup of 100% juice (6-to-8 oz) per day. It’s best to drink this during a meal or snack, not inbetween!! Kids can drink white milk and water throughout the day if they are thirsty.
- Avoid sippy-cups and other closed-cups while your child is playing. Teach your child to sit and drink from an open cup when they are thirsty. If a sippy-cup is used during play, put only water in it! Avoid drinking juice in a sippy cup.
- Limit meals and snacks throughout the day. Children should have three meals and two snacks. Grazing or frequent feedings may lead to issues with obesity and tooth decay.
- Choose healthy foods. Foods high in sugar and sticky foods are more likely to cause tooth cavities. Sweets and candies are ok every once in a while (like at birthday parties or holidays), but they shouldn’t be an “every day” or “every week” thing! Making treats rare will actually make getting one a special event to your child.
- Your kids watch everything you do, so be healthy yourself! If you take care of your teeth, eat healthy foods, and get dental check-ups, your child will pay attention to taking care of their own body as well.
- Sometimes teens and young adults have issues with their gums. This can be due to hormonal changes or changes in their oral hygiene practices. Brushing and flossing twice daily becomes more important as your child grows into adulthood.
- Disclosing rinses dye the plaque and germs in your mouth so your teen can “see” areas they may be missing. These rinses are availabe over-the-counter at your local pharmacy. Ask the pediatric dentist for more information.
- Children and teens with braces or other orthodontic appliances are at higher risk for dental caries. It is even more important to have dental check-ups with your pediatric dentist at this time. Going to your orthodontist once a month doesn’t count!
- Based on risk factors, some teens may require more frequent dental cleanings or dental check-ups. The pediatric dentist will work with your family to determine if you child needs more frequent dental visits.