How Do I Prevent Cavities?

 

Oral Hygiene

Brushing and Flossing

Good oral hygiene, proper and regular brushing and flossing, removes bacteria and the left-over food particles from tooth surfaces that combine to create cavities.

For infants, use a wet gauze or clean washcloth to wipe the plaque from teeth and gums at least once a day. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water.

For older children, parents should brush their child’s teeth at least twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste and floss at least once a day, preferably before bedtime.

Diet

Watch the number of sugary snacks that you give your children

Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. Most snacks that children prefer can lead to cavity formation. The more frequently a child snacks on sticky, sugary or fermentable carbohydrates (see Grazing), the greater the chance for tooth decay. How long food remains in the mouth also plays a role. For example, hard candy, sticky foods (fruit snacks, dried fruit, raisins), non-sugar-free gum and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which cause longer acid attacks on tooth enamel. If your child must snack, choose nutritious foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, low-fat dairy such as yogurt, and cheeses, which are healthier and better for children’s teeth.

Q: “Rasins and dried fruit….. aren’t they natural and good for my child’s body and teeth?” Yes, they are natural. Generally speaking, unprocessed, and natural foods are better for our overall health and teeth. However, with many dehydrated (dried) fruits such as raisins, apricots, etc., the drying process removes water which condenses the sugars of the natural fruit into a super-sweet and sticky substance that adheres in-between and inside the small crevices of the teeth. These particles aren’t easily washed away with saliva or water. The bacteria then feed on these particles, bathing the teeth in acids for prolonged amounts of time.

Regular Check-Ups and Cleanings

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends visits every six months to the pediatric dentist, beginning at your child’s first birthday. Cavities in baby teeth can move quickly if undetected. Routine visits will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health.

Fluoride

Regular use of fluoride containing toothpastes, rinses, prescription suppliments, drinking water which has been fluoridated, and/or professional application of high strength fluorides all aid in the reduction of cavities. Please see “Fluoride – does it work? Is it safe? Below.

Sealants

A sealant is a protective, long lasting coating that is applied by the dentist to the chewing surfaces (grooves) of the back teeth (premolars and molars), where the majority of cavities in children are found. This sealant acts as a barrier to food, plaque and acid, thus protecting the decay-prone areas of the teeth.

Xylitol

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognizes the benefits of xylitol on the oral health of infants, children, adolescents, and persons with special health care needs.

The use of XYLITOL GUM by mothers (2-3 times per day) starting 3 months after delivery and until the child was 2 years old, has proven to reduce cavities up to 70% by the time the child was 5 years old.

Studies using xylitol as either a sugar substitute or a small dietary addition have demonstrated a dramatic reduction in new tooth decay, along with some reversal of existing dental caries. Xylitol provides additional protection that enhances all existing prevention methods. This xylitol effect is long-lasting and possibly permanent. Low decay rates persist even years after the trials have been completed.

Xylitol is widely distributed throughout nature in small amounts. Some of the best sources are fruits, berries, mushrooms, lettuce, hardwoods, and corn cobs. One cup of raspberries contains less than one gram of xylitol.

Studies have shown xylitol intake that consistently produces positive results ranged from 6-8 grams per day, divided into 3-7 consumption periods. Higher quantities did not result in greater cavity reduction. Similarly, consumption frequency of less than 3 times per day showed no effect.

To find gum or other products containing xylitol, try visiting your local health food store or search the Internet to find products containing 100% xylitol.