Our goal at Twice Pediatric Dentistry is to educate families to prevent or decrease cavities in children. We strive to provide an exceptional experience so that children have no fears of the dentist, want to go to the dentist, and learn to maintain lifelong dental visits with great oral health habits.
The most common ways that we can prevent cavities are great home care habits, diet, fluoride or hydroxyapatite toothpaste or mouthrinse, regular dental visits and sealants.
Great homecare involves brushing twice a day and flossing. Yes, baby teeth need to be flossed. Parents need to brush and floss their child’s teeth until they are about seven years old.
The key to preventing cavities in terms of child’s food and beverage intake is complex. The real key to good oral health is brushing, flossing, and good homecare. However, limiting sugar and avoiding juice can often make a significant impact on developing fewer cavities and other dental problems. Be sure to have your child eat foods that help strengthen their teeth, such as dairy products like cheese, leafy greens, and protein.
Using a toothpaste with a remineralizing ingredient helps strengthen teeth and prevent cavities. Historically, fluoride has played this role. Recently, a natural ingredient, hydroxyapatite, has been incorporated into some products. Both fluoride and hydroxyapatite have been shown to remineralize tooth structure. The choice is up to you!
Regular dental visits allow the pediatric dentist to educate the family on home care and all of the information in this post. Dental professionals also remove gross debris or calculus build up on the teeth to improve prevention. They also detect weak tooth structure or cavities before they get too large to restore. The earlier, the better for detection of decay.
Sealants are one of the best preventative weapons we have in dentistry. They are placed on permanent molars as soon as they are far enough in the mouth. Sealants fill in the deep pits and grooves, helping to prevent food, debris, and bacteria from getting into those areas.
Please continue reading for more details on these preventative subjects in pediatric dentistry.
What does this look like? One main reason that we encourage seeing your pediatric dentist at such an early age is to educate on great home care habits. The most important recommendation is that a parent or guardian do the brushing and flossing until a child is about seven years old. Research shows children should have the dexterity to do a good job with home care at about seven years of age. (but do children ever do a good job - ha ha). The basics are brushing twice a day and flossing. Yes, you have to floss baby teeth!. Brushing in the morning is less important while children are very young but becomes crucial as they become school age. Include brushing and flossing at times that work best for the family. Be sure not to put too much pressure on yourself. Flossing is necessary. Failure to floss is one of the leading causes of cavities in between baby teeth. Baby teeth have a thinner enamel (the outside strong portion of a tooth) and they are more prone to cavities and cavities grow faster in them. All baby teeth that are touching another tooth should be flossed nightly. In young children you can use flossers or floss sticks. They work fairly well on baby teeth, making it easier to get into a child’s mouth.
So many of our families are shocked to discover that their children have cavities. Cavities unfortunately have become very common. Dental caries is the most common chronic disease in children, five times more common than asthma. A lot of our families also say that they are a low sugar family. So what is the deal? Basically, anything other than water can in some way contribute to cavities. Consistent, home care and getting everything off of your child’s teeth at night before they go to bed is essential to good home care. Carbohydrates are one of the leading causes of cavities. Carbs break down into sugars, which when left behind on the teeth, can lead to cavities. We can not avoid our children eating carbohydrates. Most of their foods and snacks contain carbs. Our children need carbs to grow, to get full, and to maintain energy. Anything in moderation is ok, including sugar. You do not have to keep all sugar away from your child. Just be sure to brush and floss their teeth every night. Another huge contributor to cavities in children is beverages. The recommendations for children are water whenever they want, milk with meals, juice just once a day or not at all (see the first patient visit blog for juice recommendations), special drinks (like lemonade or ice tea) on special occasions. Let’s keep soda for adults! Another key to prevention is to eat foods that help strengthen teeth and improve the oral flora such as dairy (cheese), leafy greens, and proteins. Follow these recommendations to be ahead of the game in helping to prevent cavities in your child.
The Association of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that everyone use some form of remineralizing agent. Fluoride is recommended at the age that a child is able to spit it out. Fluoride has always been the only and best remineralizing agent that helps strengthen teeth and prevent cavities. If you are not comfortable using fluoride another option is available. Hydroxyapatite is considered a natural ingredient because our teeth are composed of hydroxyapatite and you can safely swallow this product. Hydroxyapatite works similar to fluoride to help remineralize tooth structure. The choice is yours!
The AAPD recommends that you visit the pediatric dentist twice a year. Dental insurance covers two cleanings and two visits a year. These visits give the pediatric dentist an opportunity to educate and emphasize home care and prevention, to make early detection or weak areas of cavities, and to prevent or treat cavities before they get too bad, and monitor proper growth and development of your child.
Dental sealants are one of the best preventative treatment options we have in dentistry. You can reduce your child’s risk of cavities by having sealants placed. Most dental insurance companies cover sealants at 100% with out of pocket expense. Dental insurers know the value of sealants to prevent dental problems. Teeth have natural grooves, pits, and fissures (or small cracks). Even with great dental homecare, some areas of the teeth in the mouth are more susceptible to tooth decay (or cavities) just because of the anatomy. Sealants fill in the grooves and pits making it harder, or impossible for food, plaque, and bacteria to get into those areas and cause decay.
When do we typically recommend sealants? We recommend sealants on the 6 year and 12 year permanent molars as soon as they are present in the mouth. We can also place them on other teeth and even baby teeth if requested.
What are sealants made of? Sealants are made of a flowable dental resin material that bonds and hardens in the small pits and grooves of a tooth’s surface.
How do you place them? Sealants are easy to place, taking about 10 minutes with a cooperative child. We often place them the same day as we recommend them. Sealants require no numbing and do not cause any discomfort. We tell and show you all the steps, including - cleaning the tooth with “tooth shampoo”, rinsing with water, cotton isolation, “dental glue placement” and dental sealant material placement, and a special light that cures or hardens the material.
How long do they last? If placed well and certain foods/candy are avoided, sealants can last 5 years or more. Hard or sticky candy and grinding can shorten the life of sealants. Chewing on ice can also cause sealants to chip out. Things that also may lead to shortening the life of a sealant are clenching/grinding teeth, chewing on ice, chewing on hard food or candy, and chewing on other hard foreign objects can also shorten the life of sealants. As part of each routine hygiene check, sealants are visually inspected in the clinic to ensure they are intact and in good shape.
What happens if they chip off? Studies have shown and proven that a previously sealed or partially sealed tooth presents with less caries and risk of caries. It is still beneficial to have sealants placed even if you think your child will chip them out. We can always repair or replace them as well.
Prevention is key to oral health and we are here to help! Have a question, please feel free to reach out to us!
Remember to brush your teeth TWICE a day and see the dentist TWICE a year!