Cavities in Children La Mesa, CA – Did you know that early childhood caries, or tooth decay and cavities, is the number one chronic childhood condition? Cavities are a chronic disease, five times more common than childhood asthma, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Early childhood caries has become widespread and isn’t only caused by forgetting to brush and floss,” says Dr. Santiago Surillo, a La Mesa pediatric dentist. “Your child’s oral health can be impacted by their genetics and their diet. And because we see a greater increase in sugar consumption starting at younger ages, it’s even more important to be vigilant about your child’s oral health.”
It is estimated that approximately four million children suffer from tooth decay. While tooth decay can be caused by not brushing and flossing properly, it can also be caused by introducing bacteria into a child’s mouth – from things like sharing utensils or toothbrushes, or “cleaning” a pacifier by putting it in your mouth before giving it to the child, among other things.
Dr. Surillo breaks down everything you need to know about cavities.
What causes tooth decay?
Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that feed sugar into our mouths. These bacteria create acids that eat away the enamel on our teeth by depleting the calcium. The bacteria also create plaque, a sticky film that builds upon the teeth. Over time, plaque also leads to erosion of the enamel. When enough enamel has eroded and there is no longer enough calcium to support it, that part of the tooth essentially collapses, leaving a cavity.
Studies show that moms may also be the cause of some children’s tooth decay. If you share utensils or a toothbrush with your baby or toddler, you are transferring the bacteria from your mouth into your child’s. And, if you are prone to cavities, it’s more likely that you are passing these dangerous decay-causing bacteria right along to your child. In fact, high levels of decay-causing bacteria can actually run in families.
“If you have had issues with your teeth and have had a lot of cavities, it is crucial to be vigilant with your children,” says Dr. Surillo. “Eighty percent of cavities are found in only 25 percent of children. Oftentimes, you’ll find a pediatric dentist asking you about your dental history – that’s so we know how best to handle your child, and can offer the proper education for how you should care for your child’s teeth.”
Can you spot decay before it becomes a kid’s cavities?
If your child’s teeth start losing the important minerals needed to protect them, you may notice a white spot on the tooth. This is an early sign of decay. The good news is, at this point the decay can be stopped or reversed.
Fluoride helps build strong enamel and can help repair the enamel that has been damaged. If your dentist believes your child may be at risk for cavities or notices areas of early decay, he or she may recommend adding more fluoride to your child’s oral routine. Fluoride can be found in tap water and toothpaste, but your dentist may recommend using a fluoride gel, or mouth rinse, or may prescribe fluoride tablets. Additionally, your dentist may recommend products with Xylitol. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that inhibits the growth of cavity-causing bacteria.
Remember you are what you eat.
Your child’s diet can also play a big role in fending off, or causing, tooth decay. Every time your child eats something that is sugary or starchy, the bacteria in our mouth use those to create acid. Our saliva naturally acts as a barrier, washing away these harmful acids. But, if your child snacks throughout the day, or carries s sippy cup full of juice, the teeth are continually having acid attacks them.
Limit snacking between meals, and save candies, cookies, soda, and juices for special occasions. Limit fruit juice, and offer water instead. If your child likes to have a sippy cup at all times, make sure it is filled with water. Never send your child to bed with a bottle full of milk or juice
Saliva flow decreases while your child is sleeping, so be sure your child doesn’t eat anything after brushing his teeth at bedtime. Foods high in calcium can help protect the teeth, so be sure your child’s diet is rich in foods like cheese and milk.
Form a Relationship with a Pediatric Dentist
Your child should see a dentist by the age of one. Seeing a pediatric dentist ensures your child will be seen by someone who is well-versed in treating children. It’s important to care for your child’s baby teeth because they play an important role in how your child’s smile develops. Losing one to decay too early can cause alignment problems when the permanent teeth begin to erupt.
A pediatric dentist will have the proper tools and knowledge to treat your child, beginning as early as the age of one. The dentist and staff will be able to educate you on how to properly care for your child’s developing smile.
Your dentist may also recommend dental sealants. Sealants are a thin, plastic coating that is painted onto the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. The sealant protects the teeth, which is important because the grooves and pits of these teeth are especially prone to hiding food and bacteria that can lead to decay. The sealant will form a barrier that will prevent that from happening.
Monitor your child’s brushing.
Help your child brush his or her teeth at least two times a day. You will most likely need to assist with brushing until your child is around age 7 or 8. Place a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on the toothbrush, and brush it up and down in a circular motion, paying close attention to cover every surface of the tooth. As soon as your child has two teeth that touch, begin flossing.
For children who have not yet developed teeth, it’s still important to keep their mouths clean. Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, damp washcloth after all feedings. As soon as the first tooth appears, begin brushing with training toothpaste.
Contact Our Children’s Orthodontist and Pediatric Dentist in El Cajon, La Mesa, and San Diego, CA
If you believe your child may be prone to decay, or if your child is over the age of one and hasn’t yet seen a dentist, schedule an appointment right away. Dr. Surillo and his staff treat children of all ages. Call 619-461-6166 today.