Prevention Tips for Home Care
- Limit of 3-4 snacks per day for younger children
- Gum line brushing (“in little circles”)
- Flossing (using a flossing tool or fingers)
- Brushing in the morning (after breakfast) and in the evening (before bedtime). It takes about 3 minutes to really get the plaque off!
- Control of oral habits, as indicated (tooth grinding, thumb or finger sucking, nail biting, lip sucking, etc.)
As a general rule, children do not have the motor skills for excellence in brushing until age 5 or 6 years, and flossing until age 7 or 8 years. Before that, they will need your help!
Almost all foods contain sugars or cooked starches. When foods containing even small amounts of sugars or cooked starches are consumed, bacteria living in the plaque (bacterial film) on the teeth produce acid. This acid typically remains in the mouth for 20 minutes after eating a snack or a full meal. Some foods are likely to remain in the mouth even longer and can lead to the development of plaque acid. Unfortunately, acid attacks, which occur too frequently, can eventually lead to the development of tooth decay.
There are guidelines, which will maintain peace in the family and help preserve your child’s dental health. Some snacking is permissible. The best way to prevent cavities is to limit your children to three or four snacks per day. Sticky foods that are also healthy are better served as part of a balanced meal, rather than as snacks. Flossing every day and brushing twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste will help prevent cavities and preserve that beautiful smile!
Fluoride: Children’s and Dentists’ Best Friend
A new government study shows that tooth decay has been cut by an astounding one-third in American children during the last 10 years. Fifty-three percent of the children under age 14 who live in fluoride areas have shown no decay. Fluoride has been proven to be the most effective and economical agent in the fight against tooth decay.
Actually, fluoride is nothing new or artificial. It is naturally present in varying amounts in water, soil, plants, vegetables, fruits, meats and many foods. However, children who consume it in the correct amount, such as fluoridated drinking water, will have much better developed teeth than those who do not drink fluoridated water.
For those who live in communities without the benefit of adequate amounts of fluoride, dentists apply topical fluoride to make the teeth stronger.
Fluoride benefits teeth most if it is begun at an early age. The younger a child starts with fluoride, while the permanent teeth are still developing, the more the fluoride will be incorporated into the outer enamel surface of the developing teeth.
This makes the permanent teeth stronger chemically and physically. Children who drink fluoridated water may expect to have 50 to 65 percent fewer cavities than children who don't have the benefit of fluoridated drinking water.
Fluoride also helps the naturally occurring process of "remineralization" that occurs in the mouth. Saliva is our natural healing fluid which, in the presence of small amounts of fluoride, helps heal and reverse the development of extremely small and newly formed cavities. The process of "remineralization" is most favorable in the presence of fluoride, when the diet doesn't contain large quantities of refined carbohydrates and when the teeth are free from bacterial plaque.
Even adults can benefit from fluoride, especially those who are cavity-prone. They should have a multiple number of topical fluoride treatments at checkups and regularly use fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes.
How to Eat… and Avoid Cavities!
What foods cause cavities? The answer is that most foods - including main meals and snacks - can help cause cavities.
The newest scientific studies show that there is a much less clear distinction between "good" or "bad" foods for teeth. Any food that contains sugar and starches can cause decay. But while everyone suspects sweets, the truth is that sugar is contained in fruits and in milk. Foods like bread and potato chips contain starch and are also potentially dangerous. As far as the teeth are concerned, it doesn't matter where the sugar comes from. Sugar is sugar. The bacteria cannot read labels.
It's obvious that you can't stop children from eating to protect their teeth. So what should parents do? Specialists in pediatric dentistry have a simple answer: keep the child's teeth clean and fortify them with fluoride. Because when the teeth are clean - regardless of what the child eats - the teeth simply cannot decay.
Tooth decay is the result of bacteria that is found in everyone's mouth. The bacteria lives in colonies called plaque, the white film of the teeth. The way bacteria causes cavities is by producing a waste product, which is an acid. If the acid stays on the teeth long enough, it will make a hole in the tooth - like the way battery acid makes a hole in cloth.
By cleaning the teeth, the bacteria is removed. Then when the child eats, there is no bacteria in the mouth to react with the food. But the bacteria will begin to form again in a few hours so it's a good idea to clean the teeth more than once a day.
To prevent your child from getting cavities, pediatric dentists recommend taking these simple steps:
- Make sure your child's teeth are cleaned every day. While a good approach is to brush following every meal, this is not a requirement. But it's a good idea to clean the teeth after breakfast and before the child goes to bed.
- Make sure your child's teeth are protected by fluoride. Fluoride acts as a shield on the teeth and will help retard the actions of the bacteria in the mouth.
- Encourage good eating habits. A sensible and nutritious diet is important to promoting good dental health.
The realistic approach to preventing cavities is clean teeth and good prevention through regular dental checkups. If parents will follow these easy steps, they will help make tooth decay an obsolete or a preventable disease!
One of the greatest preventative services we offer is the placement of dental sealants. We recommend their utilization on permanent molars beginning around the age of 6 years of age after they have erupted sufficiently that they can be isolated and sealed before they have a chance to become carious. Either Dr. Nick or Dr. Frank places the sealants with the aid of air abrasion (KCP machine) to be sure that they are caries-free and well cured with a plasma arc-curing lamp. The procedure is done relatively quickly and without trauma, anesthesia, drilling or destruction of tooth structure. In our practice, we recommend sealing the first permanent molars when they erupt around age 6, and then sealing the second permanent molars when they erupt around age 12. We do not routinely seal the permanent bicuspids unless they have exceptionally deep grooves. Primary molars are not sealed routinely unless the grooves start to break down, and then we seal them before they become carious.
Sealants are effective in preventing caries in the occlusal grooves of molars and bicuspids. They do not protect the interproximal area (in between the teeth) so that is why we stress parental help in daily flossing so that we can avoid decay in between the teeth. This is also why we ask that you avoid sticky things like Fruit Rollups, fun fruits, gummy fruits and bears, dried fruit and anything that is high in sugar and very sticky.