It was a typical day for at work.
The only thing different about this day was my 4-year-old and my husband were coming in for their routine check-up and cleaning.
My assistant took the little guy to take his x-rays and do his cleaning.
While he was away, I was in the other room working on my husband’s cleaning.
Honestly, I was a little worried because I knew the last time my son came into the dental office he hated the toothpaste and was not cooperative enough to finish his cleaning.
Not too long and my assistant brought my son in.
He was so happy because he was a big boy and got his “pictures taken” (aka x-rays) of his teeth.
I pulled up his x-rays.
I saw it and my heart sank.
My son has a cavity!
I double-checked and triple check the x-rays and it was there.
Clear as day.
Yep. He has a cavity.
I felt terrible.
Then the mommy guilt crept in. I felt like I had failed my son.
I’m a dentist and this shouldn’t happen to my kids.
I finally understood what it felt like when parents brought their kids in and I had to break the news that Billy has a cavity.
The crazy thing is I knew that it could happen because he loves juice and milk before bed. But I thought magically he would be okay.
This does not have to be your story.
There are ways to help prevent your child, and yourself, from getting cavities.
What Causes Tooth Decay
To understand how to prevent cavities, you must have a basic understanding of how cavities form and what causes tooth decay.
I am going to give you the simple version without all of the science. So bear with me.
Disclaimer: I probably made this overly simple, but this is the basics.
There are bacteria that live in your mouth. Just like you, they need food to eat in order to survive and thrive.
The bacteria feed off of the foods you eat. When they eat some of the brownies or Ritz crackers you just ate, they produce an acid as a by-product.
The acid is what breaks your teeth and over time causes a cavity. Now, there are ways to reverse this process and prevent cavities.
From my experience talking to parents, these are the top 3 reasons why cavities form:
- poor oral hygiene
- increased frequency of carbs and refined sugars
- deep pits and grooves on teeth.
Let’s break these down and see what can be done differently to prevent cavities and tooth decay.
Poor Oral Hygiene
When you don’t do a good job of brushing or don’t brush your teeth at all, you leave your teeth vulnerable to tooth decay.
Just imagine pouring acid on your new sofa. If you don’t rinse it off quickly, the acid will destroy your sofa.
That’s why it’s so important to brush twice a day. Brushing removes food and plaque that contribute to the formation of those terrible cavities.
Plaque is the clear or white film on your teeth that harbors the bacteria that cause tooth decay.
If anything make sure that your child thoroughly brushes before going to sleep.
Once they brush, no more snacks or beverages. Only water.
This is what got me in trouble with my son. I would brush his teeth then, right before he goes to sleep, he would give me the Puss in Boots eyes and ask for milk.
Because of those eyes (and I really don’t feel like dealing with tantrums) I would give him milk and NOT brush his teeth again.
Big mistake. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
If your child’s teeth are close together, try to floss their teeth regularly to get food and plaque out.
If your child needs a little motivation, get this toothbrushing chart to keep them excited.
Increased Frequency of Carbs and Refined Sugars
You want to do what is best for your little angel and keep her happy but you have to limit the sugary snacks.
Be careful because the packaging on some snacks can be deceiving.
Fruit snacks seem like a healthy choice because the package says it is packed with 100% vitamin C. – and your kids need vitamin C, especially during flu season.
However, be careful with the fruit snacks because they are sticky and will hang on to your little one’s teeth a lot longer than an actual piece of fruit.
Extended exposure to the sugary treats makes their teeth more susceptible to getting a cavity.
If your child is eating lots of snacks throughout the day, you may want to check and make sure that they’re not high in carbs and sugars.
The increase in the number of times your child eats these snacks leaves your child’s teeth more prone to tooth decay.
Try snacks high in protein and fiber like cheese, celery, and nuts.
Deep Pits and Grooves
Sometimes it’s not because your child isn’t brushing their teeth or eating candy all day why they are prone to getting cavities.
Sometimes it is just purely the anatomy on their teeth.
The back teeth, in particular, can have really deep grooves and pits. This can be very difficult to keep clean because the toothbrush can’t reach these areas.
This is where sealants can be beneficial. Sealants are a protective coat that goes into these grooves to prevent tooth decay.
It’s just like when you paint your nails with nail polish. The grooves on the back teeth are painted with the sealant material that hardens with a special light.
This protects those deep grooves from getting food stuck and slowly causes tooth decay.
Next time your child visits the dentist, ask them if your child needs sealants.
Mom, you are awesome and you are doing a good job. Even if your child has had a cavity in the past, now you have the tools to help prevent it from happening again.
Trust me, I am not letting those Puss in Boots eyes fool me again.
Here’s to no cavities at your child’s next dentist visit.