Why are you so concerned about decay?

Dental decay in children is on the rise. According to a February 2010 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dental decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood – five times more common than asthma!

The good news is that we know that decay detected at the beginning stages of enamel demineralization can actually be reversed using fluoride as a trace mineral. Demineralization refers to the damage done to the tooth's enamel caused by acid from the bacteria; when this occurs, important minerals have been depleted from the enamel. Demineralization is also commonly referred to as a ‘white spot’ or ‘white spot lesion.’ However, we can reduce demineralization with careful applications of fluoride in the office. When the tooth enamel begins to harden again, it is called--no surprise!--remineralization. If caught in time, remineralization allows the tooth to avoid the need for a traditional filling. We monitor and track these areas of concern at every dental visit so these teeth can stay healthy and avoid fillings if at all possible.

How do Cavities Form?
The good news is cavities don’t form overnight! Cavities form when traces of food particles (carbohydrates) combine with the natural bacteria of your mouth and produce a thick layer of sticky plaque, especially at the gum line. The chemical combination of food and bacteria creates a lactic acid that is strong enough to weaken and eventually disintegrate the natural enamel on teeth, causing the enamel to break down. Plaque becomes a natural breeding ground for decay (cavities) and periodontal disease, which affects the health of the gums or gingival.

We suggest that parents and children don’t share food, utensils or toothbrushes. The reason? The bacteria that cause cavities are transmitted from the parent or caregiver to the child. Even parents and caregivers need to be mindful of and maintain their own oral health!

What Can I do to Prevent Cavities in my Child?
For infants, we recommend using a wet gauze or clean washcloth and gently to wipe the plaque from your baby’s teeth and gums. Do this after the morning feeding and before your child goes to sleep for the night. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water.

Toddlers and children just starting school need to have an adult help them brush their teeth at least twice a day and floss daily. Fine motor skills used in brushing don’t develop in children until at least ages 6-7. Your child can be ready to brush their teeth unsupervised if they are able to write in cursive or tie their shoes without assistance.

Many children respond well to using an electric toothbrush. Ask us about when to start and how to introduce this into your child’s tooth routine.

Be sure your child receives regular dental checkups and cleanings every six months up until age 16. If your child is at high risk for tooth decay, has had cavities or is in braces, we may recommend more frequent visits. And of course, always teach and encourage your children to make healthy food choices at meals and for snacks.

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