In our last article, we talked about how costly a single cavity can be to maintain throughout your lifetime. If a filling is placed on a 10-year-old child’s molar, it will cost on average $2187 to maintain, repair and replace by the time he or she is 79 years old. If that initial cavity never developed, the need for the on-going dental work would become unnecessary. Therefore, it is especially critical during childhood and adolescence to prevent tooth decay from developing. In today’s article we are going to discuss the importance of good daily hygiene and a healthy diet in prevention of tooth decay.
What causes a cavity?
Is it sugar, plaque, weak teeth, or just bad luck? In fact, what causes a cavity is acid. Acid starts a process called demineralization of tooth enamel, which basically means the enamel is dissolving. When a tooth is exposed to enough acid over time, the tooth will demineralize. Eventually, when the demineralization gets deep enough into the tooth, a hole or “cavity” is formed.
Where does this acid come from?
There are two basic sources of acid. First, many things we eat and drink are acidic. Soda, sports drinks, coffee, and fruit juices are just a few examples. Second, certain bacteria in our mouths will make acids when exposed to sugars. When the teeth are exposed to enough acid for a period of time, cavities will form. Therefore, in order to prevent tooth decay, we need to limit our exposure to acidic and sugary foods and remove the acid-producing bacteria which are on our teeth.
It’s not only how much sugar, but how often
When we consider our diet, it is not only how much sugar or acid we are exposing to our teeth, but also the frequency of that exposure. For example, a child that drinks three sodas at lunch will have more sugar and acid on his teeth than the child that sips one soda all day long. However, the child that sips on the drink is causing greater harm to the teeth because of the longer exposure time. When we see children with tooth decay, it is often because of the frequent consumption of candy, soda and sports drinks. Unfortunately, in today’s world, our children are constantly exposed to sugary foods while away from home. Be sure to limit this sugar exposure to help prevent tooth decay.
The 2 X 2 Rule: Brush twice a day for two minutes
The removal of bacteria is just as important to eliminating tooth decay. Brushing the teeth at least twice daily and flossing everyday is essential. However, most kids (and adults) don’t spend enough time to get their teeth clean. A minimum of two minutes is needed to brush effectively. Using a kitchen timer is often helpful for younger patients to make sure they are brushing long enough to get the teeth clean. Also, consider having your child use an electric toothbrush, such as the Sonicare. This can greatly improve the plaque removal, and the investment in a good electric toothbrush will be well worth the cost when it helps prevent a cavity.
With excellent home care and a diet that limits sugar and acid exposure, our children will be creating a lifetime of dental health. Next week, we will be discussing the benefits of dental sealants and fluoride in preventing tooth decay. If you have any questions about preventing cavities or other dental issues, please contact our office by email at [email protected] or by phone at (937) 434-8870. You can also visit our website at www.almoneybrowndental.com to learn more about our office and other dental topics.
The Almoney & Brown Dental Team