Preventing Childhood Decay

Preventing childhood decay

Your child’s teeth are important for eating, talking, and smiling. They help in the development of speech and maintain the space for the new adult teeth.
Oral care should begin soon after a baby’s birth. Gums should be cleaned after each feeding. This will help to establish a pattern and good habits for your child. You can begin brushing your child’s teeth as soon as they appear. We can suggest the right sized brush for your child.

Always clean your infant’s gums after feedings.
For very young infants, wipe gums with a clean, damp cloth or gauze pad after each meal. If you wish, you can introduce an infant toothbrush at eight weeks of age. It is important to establish a pattern for tooth cleaning. Emphasize brushing and or tooth cleaning each morning and evening.

Cleaning your baby’s soother and sharing cutlery
Do not clean your baby’s soother by placing it in your mouth. You should not share your cutlery or cups with your baby. It is possible to transfer bacteria that cause tooth decay, from your mouth to your baby’s.

Use of toothbrushes and toothpastes
Parents should brush children’s teeth daily with a soft wet toothbrush. Have your child brush at least twice daily or as directed by your dentist. Do not allow your child to swallow the toothpaste and use no more than a pea-sized amount for children under six. Be sure to schedule a dental visit for your child between 6-12 months of age.


Baby bottle decay
Your child can develop tooth decay from drinking milk or juice from a bottle as they go to sleep. If you must give your baby a bottle at nap or bed time, fill it with plain water not milk, formula or juice. What tends to happen is that as the baby drifts off to sleep, the last drops of milk, juice or formula are not swallowed but are left to pool around the teeth. This can lead to tooth decay.


Check your baby’s teeth regularly for signs of tooth decay
Once a week check your baby’s teeth for decay. Lift both lips and check the four upper and lower front teeth. If you notice any white, brown or black spots, contact our office immediately. These may be the earliest signs of tooth decay.


Supervise your child’s brushing
You also should supervise your child’s brushing. Let your child brush first to help establish a pattern and then you brush again, taking care to remove all food debris and focus on the back teeth. Have your child only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.


Foods and snacks
Give your child healthy foods and snacks. Limit foods and drinks with sugar. Sticky, sugary foods adhere to the grooves and fissures on the back teeth. Sugared chewing gums should be avoided. If you do want to give some sugary snacks, then it is best to give them at the end of a meal when saliva flow will help wash food debris away. Do not give sugary snacks between meals.




Diet & tooth decay







How does tooth decay start?
Tooth decay is caused by certain bacteria (mutans streptococci and lactobacilli) that live in your mouth. When these bacteria attach themselves to your teeth and multiply in dental plaque, they can do damage to your teeth. The bacteria feed on what you eat – especially sugars (including fruit sugars) and cooked starches (bread, potatoes, rice pasta etc.). Within about five minutes after you eat or drink, the bacteria begin producing acids as a byproduct of their digesting your food. Those acids can penetrate the tooth’s hard enamel and root surface covering and dissolve some of the minerals (calcium and phosphate). If the acid attacks are infrequent and of short duration, your saliva can help to repair the damage by neutralizing the acids and supplying minerals and fluorides that can replace those lost from your tooth. However, if your mouth is dry, and if you have many of these bacteria or you snack frequently, then the tooth mineral loss from acid attacks is too great and cannot be repaired. This is the start of tooth decay and eventually leads to the formation of a cavity.


Reducing sugary and starchy foods is a good start
Reducing the number of sugary and starchy foods, snacks, drinks or candies can help to reduce the development of tooth decay. That does not mean you can never eat these types of foods, but you should limit their consumption particularly when eaten between main meals. A good rule is three meals per day and no more than three snacks per day.


Classifying food types for their potential to cause tooth decay

When we consider tooth decay or dental ‘caries’, we can classify foods into their potential to cause tooth decay. Some foods such as sugars or starches will help to cause tooth decay and are thus highly ‘cariogenic’. Some foods such as xylitol will actually halt tooth decay.


Timing is also important.
If one eats highly cariogenic or tooth-decay-promoting foods as snacks without brushing afterwards, then the bacteria can use these foods for growth and produce acids that will cause decay. A candy sucked slowly over many hours is worse than having one cookie as a snack. The long-term exposure to sugars and the consistency of the food are two important factors to consider when designing a diet plan to help prevent tooth decay.