Moms Ask: What Can I Do To Prevent Cavities? [Updated for 2018]

toddler brushing with yellow toothbrush

ALPHARETTA, GA – Many parents have been surprised at their child’s pediatric dentist appointment to learn that their kid has cavities. They might respond by insisting they have taught their children proper teeth brushing techniques and that they buy the right dental fluoride toothpastes. Unfortunately, that is not enough.

Cavities happen when food remains stuck on the teeth. The carbohydrates in the food feed the bacteria in the mouth, which turns those sugars into lactic acid. This lactic acid is what causes the enamel to break down, leading to cavities. That means it is important for you to pay attention to how well and how often your child is brushing and also make sure that flossing is done properly.

What is the first sign of a cavity?

The first sign of a cavity is most likely tooth sensitivity. If your child is suffering from a loss of appetite and feels mild to sharp pain when eating foods, it might be because of a cavity. The pain is usually in one centralized area or tooth. Other signs of cavities are black or brown spots and toothaches. Only the dentist can diagnose whether it’s a cavity or something else, so make an appointment to get things checked out before they get any worse.

What will happen if I leave cavities untreated?

Untreated cavities can result in disastrous and painful consequences! Not only will they be painful and inconvenient, they could result in gum disease, infection, and extreme tooth decay. More bacteria and plaque can build up, creating a larger “hole” in the teeth and leaving your child vulnerable to infection. When cavities go ignored, the dentist may have to perform a root canal or tooth extraction!

How do I prevent cavities?

There are many ways to maintain strong, healthy teeth, but the most important tip to remember is consistency. If your child only practices these important habits once in a while, they’ll be at greater risk for cavities.

Flossing removes debris and food particles that are hosting grounds for plaque. When your child flosses, they should be sure to reach back and get the spaces in between their molars on the top and the bottom, plus the spaces in between the rest of the teeth. This is a habit worth developing because they will use it for the rest of their life. Many children as young as 4 can use flossing picks that are designed for small hands. They have wider handles and fun characters to entice children to use them. You can buy 50 of these for as little as one dollar.

Equally important to their brushing habits is your child’s diet. When they frequently eat sticky foods, cavities are more likely to happen. While granola bars and fruit leather might be a healthy, on-the-go snack, the sticky nature of these treats can increase the likelihood of cavities forming in their mouth. Young children are not as in-tune with what they feel inside their mouths and might not notice that some of their strawberry gummy snack is sticking to their back teeth.

Most often, these types of sticky-food cavities occur between the molars, where it is hardest for a toothbrush to reach. This makes flossing so incredibly important. Once your child has teeth that are touching, flossing should begin. You can do it at first, and then eventually train your child to do it properly. As you can see, diet and oral hygiene habits go hand in hand.

While it is unlikely you can keep your child from ever eating sticky food again, you can do your best to help them develop good habits. Teaching them to choose fresh fruit over processed fruit is one place to start. You can also encourage them to drink water with and after their snacks to help wash away some of the cavity-causing sugars.

Dr. Nanna Ariaban adds, “Fruit juices are unhealthy for the teeth, even the 100 percent natural juice ones. Constant snacking and exposing your teeth to sugar increases your risk of cavities. Even snacks such as crackers and cookies are unhealthy for the teeth.”

Ultimately, the goal is to prevent cavities from forming in the first place. Ariaban, an Alpharetta dentist, takes a proactive approach to dealing with cavities in baby teeth.

According to Ariaban, “When a child has a small cavity, I recommend a filling to prevent the decay from spreading. I also offer a tooth colored, resin composite filling to minimize the appearance of that cavity.”

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