It’s time to think differently about childhood tooth decay in Los Angeles. Unless you’ve been keeping up with the research (and who does?) you might have an incomplete understanding.
Here are three critical things to know about children’s dental health.
1. Tooth Decay Is The Most Common Childhood Disease
Over 4 million preschoolers have cavities. Another unfortunate fact; tooth decay in young children is on the increase.
Why? There are several issues. Many young diets contain more sugar. Fewer children drink water that has been adjusted for fluoride levels. Many families don’t have dental insurance to help pay for care.
2. Tooth Decay Bacteria Can Spread
In a way, tooth decay is contagious. Huh? Let’s explain. Bacteria that cause decay are in the mutans streptococcus family. The bacteria mix with sugar. This mixture creates a powerful acid. The acid reduces the calcium in tooth enamel. When the bacteria remain on teeth, it produces a yellowish substance called plaque. Plaque is brutally effective at drilling into tooth enamel.
Mothers, fathers, siblings, and caregivers can transmit bacteria to babies. Of course, toddlers can get tooth decay if they don’t have this bacteria. But the presence of it boosts the risk.
Some children are better at resisting this bacteria. How do you know if your toddler has an increased risk? If parents have a lot of decay, the child is more prone to it. The child’s diet and daily oral hygiene also affect the risk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends pediatricians to ask parents about their dental health. Parents whose children are at a higher risk for cavities should communicate with a pediatric dentist. They can help your son or daughter beat the odds and emerge from childhood without a mouthful of fillings.
3. Weakened Enamel Can Repair Itself (Up To A Point)
If the teeth are continuously assaulted with juice, milk, and snacks, the enamel never has a chance to remineralize. The juice, milk, and snacks create dangerous acid. Acid and plaque weakens the enamel and may cause a white spot. This is a sign of mineral loss. It’s the first step in the formation of a cavity. At this point, you can reverse the mineral loss. Minerals in saliva and fluoride help enamel re-mineralize. Fluoride does three important things, 1) It replaces minerals. 2) It prevents further mineral loss, 3) It diminishes acid-causing bacteria.
Your child can get fluoride from toothpaste, fluoridated water, fluoride rinses, fluoride gels, and fluoride supplements. Ask your pediatric dentist which one is best suited for your child.
Two vital things to know about fluoride:
1. If little ones get too much fluoride, it can stain teeth. Your pediatric dentist can advise you on the proper amount.
2. Most bottled water doesn’t contain fluoride. If your child only drinks bottled water, they may miss out on the benefits of fluoride-adjusted municipal water.
At Dr. Bill Dorfman, DDS – Century City Aesthetic Dentistry, we help parents keep their kids’ teeth healthy. Make sure you bring your toddler in for an exam and consultation when their first tooth appears. If you wait until they are three or four, your youngster may already have tooth decay.