When we think about oral health, we tend to assume that adults have more issues with their teeth than children do. By and large, this is true – quite possibly because children have parents compelling them to brush for two minutes after every meal and floss regularly! However, there is an emerging trend in dentistry today that indicates all is not necessarily well in our children’s mouths. These days, more children than ever are presenting with cavities at increasingly young ages.
What Causes Cavities in Kids?
Pediatric cavities, much like cavities in the adult mouth, are caused mainly by tooth decay. Tooth decay in children, as in adults, is the breakdown of the hard outer surface of the tooth, called the enamel. When that outer surface breaks down, bacteria can invade the tooth and create holes, called cavities.
One of the biggest reasons that children may be developing more cavities is that the types of foods kids consume in today’s modern world are foods that are conducive to sustaining thriving populations of cavity-causing bacteria. These bacteria are particularly effective at converting foods like milk, raisins, fruit juices, cereal, and bread into acids, which then eat away at the enamel of a child’s teeth. If you are like most parents, raisins, milk, bread, and cereal likely make regular appearances on your kids’ menu.
Of course, eating raisins and getting plenty of milk so you can build strong bones is not a bad thing for kids, but children tend to have a far less varied diet than their adult counterparts. If your child also has high-risk factors, then the odds are good that they will have trouble with cavities if some behaviors are not changed. For example, the following factors raise a child’s risk of tooth decay:
- Diet high in sugars and starches
- Water supply with no fluoride (many popular bottled-water brands do not contain fluoride, and many filters remove it along with other contaminants)
- Poor oral hygiene habits, such as irregular or abbreviated brushing and failure to floss twice daily, or at all
- Low saliva flow
How Can I Decrease My Child’s Risk for Cavities?
You can decrease your child’s risk for cavities by adjusting their diet (within moderation, of course) and, most importantly, by establishing a strong, regular, effective oral health routine. Also, keep an eye on your child’s mouth, watching for white spots on teeth in particular. These spots appear when the enamel is starting to break down and can cause tooth sensitivity.
Your child’s dentist can help you identify potential risk factors for cavities in your child and in your own behavior when it comes to caring for your child’s teeth. For example, did you know that juice before bedtime can increase risk of cavities, as can sharing utensils with your child? Of course, routine dental cleanings will go a long way toward preventing pediatric cavities as well.
At Dr. Pat Crawford’s dental clinic, we will work with you to figure out the best way to keep your mouth happy and healthy. Just give us a call or visit our website at PatCrawfordDDS.com.