Did you know…
Dental caries is 5 times more common than asthma and 7 times more common than hayfever. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that dental caries is perhaps the most prevalent of infectious diseases in our nation’s children. More than 40% of children have tooth decay before they reach kindergarten. Decay of primary teeth can affect children’s potential growth, lead to increased need for braces, and result in significant pain and potentially life threatening infection or swelling.
What is a cavity?
Dental caries is the disease that causes cavities.. It is a complicated, infectious, contagious disease and it can have a significant impact on your child’s general health as well as his oral health. A cavity is actually a hole in a tooth that is caused by the acids that are produced by bacteria on the teeth
When do cavities start?
The disease begins in infancy when bacteria first start to inhabit the mouth. Many different kinds of bacteria make their home in the mouth. Some are good, and some are bad. The good ones compete for space with the bad ones. The bad ones love an acidic environment and therefore produce cavity causing acids when exposed to sugars or starches. The more acid they produce, the happier they are and the more they multiply, thus creating a vicious cycle of more and more bad bacteria. If they start overgrowing the good bacteria (like weeds in a garden), the caries process will begin.
The parent’s mouth (or primary caregivers mouth) serves as the host for the bacteria that the child will be colonized or infected with. If the parent has had a history of lots of cavities in the recent past, it is likely that their mouths are inhabited by lots of these bad bacteria. It is also likely that, unless they are very careful, they will transmit these bacteria to their child, causing them to have lots of cavities as well. This process is called “vertical transmission of bacteria”
The great news
Studies show that if your child is not exposed to these acid producing bacteria until after their 2nd birthday, the good bacteria will already have their “homes” set up and won’t allow the bad bugs to establish themselves. With a little knowledge and a lot of effort, your child can grow up to be cavity free for a lifetime.
What parents can do
- Keep their mouths as clean as possible during and following pregnancy and have any cavities treated. Make sure to visit their dentist regularly. This will reduce the number of bad bacteria in the mouth.
- Optimize fluoride intake. Rinse with fluoride rinses as recommended by your dentist.
- Chew xylitol based sugarless chewing gum (like Spry or Zellies.) This can reduce the effects of acids on the teeth. Studies have shown that children of parents that chew xylitol chewing gum have fewer cavities.
- Do not share utensils or toothbrushes with your child; this will transmit bacteria
- Do not place your child’s pacifier in your mouth prior to placing it in your child’s mouth
Make sure to schedule your child’s first visit by 12 months of age. Call Growing Smiles Transit office at 716-580-3580 or Williamsville office at 716-689-0929 to book an appointment.
What can be done to change things if your child does have acid-producing bacteria?
Optimize Oral Hygiene
Kids love to be independent. They usually believe that they can do an adequate job of brushing their own teeth and often object to being helped with the task. Unfortunately, younger children do not posses the manual dexterity skills to actually remove the plaque from their teeth. The manual dexterity skills needed to brush well are similar to those needed to cut steak with a knife and fork. Therefore, until you’re able to turn the child loose on a steak by himself, he needs to have his teeth brushed by a parent. The skills needed to floss are even greater, so supervision with flossing should continue for a longer period. Keep in mind that flossing is the only way to remove plaque from between the teeth. For kids prone to these types of cavities, flossing is imperative.
At Growing Smiles, we recommend parental assistance with brushing until the age of 9 and flossing until the age of 12. We recommend brushing twice a day and flossing every night before bed. A soft toothbrush should be used and special attention should be placed on brushing at the gumline.
Optimize diet habits
Since we know that there will be 45 minutes of acid for every exposure to sugar, and we know that so many foods have natural sugars in them, the first thing to do is limit the number of food exposures per day. Because of the 45 minute “acid attack”, consider that the frequency with which a child is exposed to sugar is much more important than how much or what he eats.
- Keep milk or juice with meals only
- Drink water all day every day
No grazing when snacking – no more than five exposures to food per day. A typical day should include 3 meals and 2 snacks. A food exposure is considered anything from a full meal to a sip of juice.
Foods that clear the mouth quickly are not as bad as those that “stick” around for a while.
Cooked starches are one of the worst offenders. This includes crackers, dry cereals, pretzels and chips. These foods get packed into the deep grooves of the molar teeth, then saliva breaks the starches down into simple sugars where they can do damage for hours
Fluoride can be used to help rebuild enamel that has been weakened by acid as long as a cavity has not yet formed. Fluoride can also help to help reduce the amount of acid producing bacteria in plaque. In children who will not swallow the fluoride, it can be prescribed in a liquid mouthwash or a “brush on” gel.
At your child’s visit, the Growing Smiles team will recommend what is best for your child.
Reset the bacteria with “Treatment Rinse”
Rinsing daily with the treatment rinse accompanied by a change in diet and hygiene habits will allow you to reset the bacteria currently living in the mouth and shifting that bacterial population from acid producing decay causing neighborhoods to benign healthy neighborhoods. This rinse will do the following:
- reduce the oral bacteria
- help bring minerals back into any weak areas
- neutralize acids
- create a more alkaline and less acidic environment to encourage colonization by healthy bacteria
Tooth strengthening cream
This great tasting “cream” for the teeth will help bring minerals back into weakened enamel and, if caught early enough, help “heal potential cavities” before they need to be treated with fillings. It consists of Calcium and Phosphorus that is bound to sticky milk proteins. A small amount should be applied to the teeth with a clean finger after the last brushing of the evening and be allowed to sit on the teeth overnight.
This natural sweetener derived from birch trees has the effect of neutralizing acids in the mouth and because bacteria can’t metabolize it, decreasing the load of acid-producing bacteria in the mouth. Xylitol is readily available as chewing gum or candies. To be effective against cavities, it should be used 5 times a day. Common brands available in local grocery stores are Zellies and Spry. It’s also widely available from online retailers.