Tooth Decay Prevention
Tooth decay is a progressive disease resulting in the interaction of
bacteria that naturally occur on the teeth and sugars in the everyday
diet. Sugar causes a reaction in the bacteria, causing it to produce acids
that break down the mineral in teeth, forming a cavity. Dentists remove
the decay and fill the tooth using a variety of fillings, restoring the
tooth to a healthy state. Nerve damage can result from severe decay and
may require a crown (a crown is like a large filling that can cap a tooth,
making it stronger or covering it). Avoiding unnecessary decay simply
requires strict adherence to a dental hygiene regimen: brushing and flossing
twice a day, regular dental checkups, diet control and fluoride treatment.
Practicing good hygiene avoids unhealthy teeth and costly treatment.
The grooves and depressions that form the chewing surfaces of the back
teeth are extremely difficult (if not impossible) to clean of bacteria
and food. As the bacteria reacts with the food, acids form and break down
the tooth enamel, causing cavities. Recent studies indicate that 88 percent
of total cavities in American school children are caused this way.
Tooth sealants protect these susceptible areas by sealing the grooves
and depressions, preventing bacteria and food particles from residing
in these areas. Sealant material is a resin typically applied to the back
teeth, molars and premolars and areas prone to cavities. It lasts for
several years but needs to be checked during regular appointments.
Fluoride is a substance that helps teeth become stronger and resistant
to decay. Regularly drinking water treated with fluoride and brushing
and flossing regularly ensures significantly lower cavities. Dentists
can evaluate the level of fluoride in a primary drinking water source
and recommend fluoride supplements (usually in tablets or drops), if necessary.
Sucking is a natural reflex that relaxes and comforts babies and toddlers.
Children usually cease thumb sucking when the permanent front teeth are
ready to erupt. Typically, children stop between the ages of 2 and 4 years.
Thumb sucking that persists beyond the eruption of primary teeth can cause
improper growth of the mouth and misalignment of the teeth. If you notice
prolonged and/or vigorous thumb sucking behavior in your child, talk to
Here are some ways to help your child outgrow thumb sucking:
- Don’t scold a child when they exhibit thumb sucking behavior; instead,
praise them when they don’t thumb suck.
- Focus on eliminating the cause of anxiety—thumb sucking is a comfort
device that helps children cope with stress or discomfort.
- Praise them when they refrain from the habit during difficult periods.
- Place a bandage on the thumb or a sock on their hand at night.