Kids and Cavities
What Causes Them and How to Prevent Them
In our last blog, we discussed the fact that baby teeth do get cavities. Cavities spread faster on baby teeth than on permanent teeth! In this blog, we will discuss what causes cavities on baby teeth and what you can do to prevent them.
What Causes Cavities
Bad Bacteria + Sugar = Acid
In general, the cavity process is the same for baby teeth as it is for permanent teeth. The bad bacteria in our mouths ingest, or eat, the sugar in our diets, digest it, and produce acid as the by-product.
Acid + Enamel = Cavities
Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body. Acid weakens and softens enamel in the same way that it etches glass. As the enamel softens, the bacteria penetrate through it and begin dissolving their way through the tooth.
Another Contributing Factor: Mouth pH
As you can see from the information above, bacteria (which resides in plaque) and sugar are two of the causes of cavities. Another lesser-known cause is the pH of our mouths. Bacteria produce acid as a by-product. However, if our mouths are already very acidic, it is easier for the bacteria to pH necessary for enamel damage.
How to Prevent Cavities
In order to prevent cavities, you need to address each of the three causes listed above: bacteria, sugar, and acid. Let’s take them one at a time.
The bacteria in our mouths live inside plaque. Plaque is the soft buildup that accumulates on teeth between cleanings. Because plaque is soft, it is removed with a toothbrush and floss. With proper oral hygiene techniques, you can easily remove all of the plaque from your child’s teeth.
Most children are not capable of removing all of the plaque from their teeth, so your help is necessary. Brush your children’s teeth for them until they can tie their shoelaces and write their name in cursive. Use a pea sized amount of fluoride toothpaste with no water to brush.
If you are unsure whether or not you are getting all of the plaque removed, use a plaque disclosing mouthrinse or tablets to help you see the plaque. This ensures that you do not miss any spots.
Floss any teeth that touch their neighbor every night before bed. Baby teeth often have gaps between them, and the teeth with gaps do not need to be flossed.
Limit your child’s access to simple sugars like candy, cookies, cakes, and other sweets. When these are enjoyed, it should be with a meal. Avoid sticky candies like jelly beans, caramels, Starburst: anything that could get stuck in the grooves of the teeth.
For snacks, choose complex carbohydrates like green veggies, or fats and proteins like cheese and nuts.
Allow your child to have sugary drinks at mealtime only! Between meals, your child should only drink water.
There are two things you can do to improve your mouth’s pH.
- Avoid acidic drinks like sodas, sparkling water, sports drinks, and fruit juices. These drinks are very low in pH. If you drink them regularly, your mouth stays at an acidic pH, making it easier for the bad bacteria to penetrate the enamel.
- Stimulate natural saliva production. Saliva is the body’s natural defense against bacteria and acid. Saliva is a base, high in pH. This counteracts the low pH the bacteria produce. You can stimulate saliva by chewing sugar-free gum.
If you have a dry mouth, your risk for cavities is MUCH higher! Talk to your dentist about salivary supplements and other tools you can use to fight cavities.
Are You Concerned about Your Kid and Cavities?
Call our office today to schedule a consultation with one of our doctors. They will discuss the preventive options available for your child and give you great tips on stopped cavities before they start!