Preventing Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is caused by sugars left in your mouth that turn into an acid, which can break down your teeth. Children are at high risk for tooth decay for a simple reason: many children and adolescents do not practice regular, good oral hygiene habits. Proper brushing and flossing routines combined with regular dental visits help keep tooth decay away.
Your child should visit the dentist every six months for regular dental cleanings and checkups. We recommend fluoride treatments twice a year along with cleanings to keep teeth their strongest. Tooth sealants are also recommended because they “seal” the deep grooves in your child’s teeth, preventing decay from forming in these hard-to-reach areas. Sealants last for several years, but will be monitored at your child’s regular checkups.
Nutrition & Oral Health
Establishing good nutritional habits for your child can be especially beneficial to promote good eating patterns and food choices for the rest of his or her life. Think of your child’s mouth as the doorway to the rest of the body.
Whatever gets consumed not only affects your child’s growth, development, weight, and energy levels, but oral health as well. Eating a nutritious, balanced diet is vital for the development of strong, healthy teeth.
General Tips for a Healthy Diet and a Healthy Mouth
- Limit your child’s consumption of sugary foods and beverages. When plaque combines with the sugars and starches, an acid is produced that attacks enamel on the teeth, and eventually causes decay.
- Make sure your child’s diet includes a balance of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein, and dairy products. The nutrients found in these foods are important for his or her growth and health.
- Look for sugar in unexpected places. Many foods that make up a balanced, healthy diet contain sugar — including fruit, some vegetables, and milk. The best time to eat these is during meal time, not as a snack.
- Speaking of snacks, limit your child’s snacking to only a few per day, and make sure they’re nutritious!
Fun foods, like candy and starchy snacks, should be reserved for special occasions, not everyday snacking.
- When he or she is old enough, let your child chew sugar-free gum that carries the ADA seal. Chewing sugar-free gum increases saliva flow, which washes away food debris and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria.
- Ensure your child brushes twice a day and flosses to eliminate food debris that leads to harmful plaque and bacteria, and causes tooth decay.
Sometimes brushing is not enough, especially when it comes to those hard-to-reach spots in your mouth. It is difficult for your toothbrush to get in between the small cracks and grooves on your teeth. If left alone, those tiny areas can develop tooth decay. Sealants give your teeth extra protection against decay and help prevent cavities.
Dental sealants are plastic resins that bond and harden in the deep grooves on your tooth’s surface. When a tooth is sealed, the tiny grooves become smooth and are less likely to harbor plaque. With sealants, brushing your teeth becomes easier and more effective.
Sealants are typically applied to children’s teeth after their permanent teeth have erupted as a preventive measure against tooth decay. However, adults can also receive sealants on healthy teeth. It is more common to seal permanent teeth rather than baby teeth, but every patient has unique needs, and your dentist will recommend sealants on a case-by-case basis.
Sealants typically last from three to five years, although it is fairly common to see adults with sealants still intact from childhood. A dental sealant only provides protection when it is fully intact so if your sealants come off, let your dentist know, and schedule an appointment for your teeth to be resealed.