Prevention and wellness is key to keeping your child healthy and cavity free. Practicing good oral hygiene from birth to adulthood is one of the most important habits to develop.
Good habits promote healthy teeth, gums and overall wellness. Daily preventive care incorporating brushing and flossing will help prevent more difficult problems that become more painful and expensive for the child. An ounce of prevention is worth its weight in gold.
Regular check-ups at Kids Dental are an important component of preventive care. Here our team of health care providers can provide your child with the professional care they need. In between dental visits, it is important to include the following home care activities for your child preventive program.
- Brushing thoroughly twice a day and especially before bedtime
- Flossing daily
- Eating a well balanced diet and limiting harmful snacks between meals
- Using Canadian Dental Association approved dental products containing fluoride
- Rinsing with fluoridated mouthrinse as prescribed by the dentist for patients with high caries risk
- Having professionally applied fluoride varnish for high caries risk dentitions
- Rinse with water or chew a xylitol chewing gum after eating when it’s not possible to brush and floss
To keep teeth and gums healthy, we must first understand what is the cause of tooth decay. Seeing the whole picture allows us to control all the factors involved in tooth decay and gum disease.
What is Plaque?
Plaque is the culprit behind tooth decay. Plaque is a sticky transparent film that coats the teeth and is formed continuously, 24 hours a day.
How does plaque stick to teeth when we have the action of the tongue, cheeks and saliva in our mouth to wash away plaque? Plaque is made up of millions and millions of bacteria that secrete a sticky substance called dextrans. Bacterial dextrans are a type of “bacterial glue” that helps bacteria adhere to the teeth. Dextrans are so adherent to teeth that rinsing with water will not eliminate the plaque off our teeth. However, the story doesn’t stop there. Bacteria use dextrans to help trap the food we eat to use as reserve sources. When there is no food available, bacteria then digest some of the dextrans to tie them over until the next meal is consumed. Plaque is thus a combination of bacteria, dextrans and bits of food trapped within it.
Knowing all this we ask, what causes a cavity? When bacteria digest food they produce an acid that is trapped in the plaque and is in continual contact with teeth. The acid demineralizes the tooth and weakens the enamel crystals of the tooth. If this is allowed to progress, eventually a cavity forms on the tooth.
Plaque not only causes cavities, it can lead to gum disease. Plaque is an irritant to the gum tissue and when left undisturbed can lead to bleeding and irritated gums. Plaque left undisturbed will invade the space between the tooth and the gum tissue called the pocket. As the plaque creeps deeper into the pocket, it invades the supporting structures around the tooth and causes inflammation, redness and puffiness. If this situation is allowed to continue, the foundation around the tooth is lost and eventually the tooth can fall out.
Plaque however is not all bad. Plaque has the ability to store fluoride in the form of an acid soluble crystal. When acid is formed by bacteria, the acid will dissolve the fluoride crystals and release fluoride where it is needed to prevent demineralization and promote remineralization. Remember, teeth that have more fluorapatite crystals in their structure are less soluble to acid demineralization.
The first sign of a cavity is a white spot on the surface of the tooth
Sometimes these white spots can be remineralized and the decay will stop progressing. However, if the white spot is continually exposed to acid attack by bacteria, the tooth will continue to demineralize. As soon as the decay passes the enamel in the tooth and reaches dentin, decay will progress rapidly and form a hole in the tooth. If left alone without treatment, decay will eventually reach the nerve centre and cause pain for the child. At this point, the tooth will require more extensive treatment and perhaps even be lost.
How do we control Plaque?
Our main goal is to promote wellness for your child. The best way to control plaque is practice good oral hygiene. When bacteria formation is disrupted at least once every 24 hours, bacteria cannot produce enough acid to harm the teeth and gums. Brushing and flossing are the best ways to control plaque in the mouth, along with a healthy diet.
Babies and toddlers need help with brushing and flossing until their fine motor skills are developed enough for good oral hygiene practices. Supervise your child’s flossing until they are 10 years of age and their brushing until they are 7 to 8 years of age.