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How to Prevent Cavities

Childhood tooth decay or cavities are common in children worldwide. There are two major causes of cavities: sugary diets and poor dental hygiene.

Cavities, if left untreated, can be extremely painful and often result in childhood periodontitis or tooth decay. Encouraging children to eat a balanced diet, adopting a good home care routine, and making biannual visits to the pediatric dentist are all important when it comes to maintaining excellent oral health and preventing cavities.

What causes cavities?

When children’s teeth are regularly exposed to sugary foods, it results in cavities. Carbohydrates and sugar are retained on the teeth after eating, which then causes a thin film (plaque) to be formed on the enamel.  The oral bacteria in the plaque continue to feed on sugar while emitting acid. Initially, the acid erodes the enamel, weakens it and makes it susceptible to tooth decay. If nothing is done over a long period, the acid penetrates the enamel and erodes the tooth’s inner workings.

Although baby teeth are lost eventually, they should be protected, as they fulfill a number of important functions. Children should be made to floss and brush at least twice daily and go to the dentist for bi-annual cleanings. On occasion, the pediatric dentist may use a sealant to coat teeth and recommend fluoride supplements to further strengthen the mouth’s defenses.

How will I know if my child has a cavity?

Large cavities can cause excruciating pain, whereas the effect of tiny cavities may not be felt. Sometimes cavities are even hidden between teeth, making them hard to be noticed by the naked eye. The trained eyes of the dentist, as well as dental X-rays, reveals even the tiniest of cavities and they can be treated before they deteriorate.

The following are some of the main symptoms of cavities:

  • High sensitivity to warm or cold foods
  • Waking and crying at night
  • Pain
  • Toothache
  • Sensitivity to spicy foods

You should visit the pediatric dentist is a child exhibits any of these symptoms. Not doing so could exacerbate the problem, cause more pain, and possibly destroy a tooth that could have been saved.

How can I prevent cavities at home?

Making biannual visits to the pediatric dentist is only one of the ways to fight cavities. Here are some other helpful guidelines for the prevention of cavities:

  1. Analyze the diet – avoid taking too many starchy and sugary snacks, as they promote cavity formation. Eat more of natural foods and take water instead of soda where possible.
  2. Cut the snacks – snacking can expose the teeth to sugars. Consume starch or sugars during mealtimes when the child is drinking water and producing more saliva. Ensure that they take enough water, as this helps to cleanse the teeth.
  3. Lose the sippy cup – are believed to “baby bottle tooth decay” when used beyond the normal age (around twelve months). Sugary liquid is continually swilled around the teeth due to the small amount of liquid emitted with every sip.
  4. Avoid stickiness – Coffee and some other sticky foods often form plaque which hard to remove from the teeth. Avoid as much as you can.
  5. Rinse the pacifier – mother or father sometimes transfer oral bacteria to their baby. A dirty pacifier should be rinsed with running water rather than sucking it so as not to contaminate the baby’s mouth.
  6. Drinks at bedtime – avoid sending a child to sleep with a sippy cup or bottle, as the milk or baby formula will stay on the teeth throughout the night – attacking enamel and raising the risk of cavities. Make sure the child is given his last drink before bedtime and then rinse and brush the teeth.
  7. Don’t sweeten the pacifier – sometimes, parents dip pacifiers in honey as a way of calming a cranky child. Never do this. Calm the child using a hug, toy or blanket instead.
  8. Brush and floss – parents should floss and brush the teeth of the child twice daily until he/she attains the age of seven. Before age seven, children find it difficult to correctly brush every part of the mouth.
  9. Check on fluoride – fluoride can strengthen the enamel and prevent cavities when used properly. Insufficient or excess fluoride is bad for the teeth, so try getting a fluoride assessment from the pediatric dentist.
  10. Keep to appointments – you should schedule the first appointment of the child around her first birthday, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) guidelines.

For questions about preventing cavities, please get in touch with our dental office.

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