Posts for tag: tooth decay
Families of children with chronic conditions face many challenges. One that often takes a back seat to other pressing needs is the prevention of tooth decay. But although difficult, it still deserves caregivers’ attention because of the dental disease’s potential long-term impact on oral health.
Chronically ill children are often at higher risk for tooth decay, most commonly due to challenges in practicing effective oral hygiene. Some conditions create severe physical, mental or behavioral impairments in children’s ability to brush and floss: for example, they may have a heightened gag reflex to toothpaste in their mouth or they may not be able to physically perform these tasks on their own.
Some children may be taking medications that inhibit salivary flow as a side effect. Saliva is critical for disease prevention because it both neutralizes mouth acid (which can erode tooth enamel) and is a first line of defense against disease-causing bacteria. And a child’s diet, while designed to support treatment of their chronic condition, may conversely not be the best for supporting their dental health.
It’s best if caregivers and their dentists develop a strategy for decay prevention, which should include the following:
- Regular dental visits beginning at Age One. Besides monitoring dental health, dental visits also provide cleanings and other preventive measures like topical fluoride or sealants;
- Brushing and flossing support. Depending on a child’s physical and mental capacities, caregivers (or an older sibling) may need to model brushing and flossing, or perform the tasks for the child;
- Medication and diet changes. If medications are causing dry mouth, caregivers can speak to their physicians about possible alternatives; likewise, they should see if modifications can be made to their diet to better support dental health.
- Boosting salivary flow. It’s especially important with children who have dry mouth to drink more water or use aids (like xylitol gum or candies) to boost salivary flow.
Although it requires extra effort and time to give attention to a chronically ill child’s dental health, it’s well worth it. By working to prevent tooth decay early in life, these children will be more likely to enjoy good dental health in the future.
If you would like more information on dental care for children with special needs, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article “Managing Tooth Decay in Children with Chronic Diseases.”
Halloween is great fun for kids… but maybe not so much fun for their teeth. Is there a way for this much-anticipated holiday to be less stressful to oral health? Actress Mayim Bialik of The Big Bang Theory thinks so! In an interview with Dear Doctor magazine, the mother of two young sons said, “We don't do candy for Halloween. We have a Halloween fairy who takes it all away, and they get to choose a small LEGO toy in its place.”
Though this may not work for every family, it’s definitely an idea worth considering. After all, depending on how much candy your kids take in from trick-or-treating, they may have a supply that lasts for days or even weeks — and a steady diet of sticky sweets is just what their teeth don’t need.
Why is candy so bad for teeth? Disease-causing oral bacteria feed on the sugars in the candy. In the process of breaking down the sugar, the bacteria produce acids that start to break down the protective enamel covering of teeth — forming small holes, or cavities. This allows the bacteria to get deeper inside the tooth, increasing the size of the cavity. While this can happen with any food that contains sugar, the stickiness of many candies make them harder to clean off the teeth — essentially giving the bacteria more time to do their damage.
Is there anything that can be done — short of the candy exchange Mayim Bialik has managed to implement in her house? Nothing that would be as effective as eliminating candy altogether as Mayim has done, but there are a few ways to reduce the potential for harm. For example, you can try to weed out the stickiest candies, like taffy, and hard candies that stay in the mouth a long time. You can make sure your kids eat them only as a dessert at mealtime, and not throughout the day. And you can pay extra attention to how good a job your kids are doing with their daily oral hygiene. They should be brushing twice a day and flossing at least once each day. Drinking some water after eating a piece of candy can also be helpful.
It’s also important to keep up a regular schedule of routine dental visits. So if it’s been a while since your kids have been in for a checkup and cleaning, please contact us to schedule an appointment. You can learn more about kids’ oral health by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dentistry and Oral Health for Children.” And Dear Doctor’s full interview with Mayim Bialik is available here.
Cavities can happen even before a baby has his first piece of candy. This was the difficult lesson actor David Ramsey of the TV shows Arrow and Dexter learned when his son DJ’s teeth were first emerging.
“His first teeth came in weak,” Ramsey recalled in a recent interview. “They had brown spots on them and they were brittle.” Those brown spots, he said, quickly turned into caviÂties. How did this happen?
Ramsey said DJ’s dentist suspected it had to do with the child’s feedings — not what he was being fed but how. DJ was often nursed to sleep, “so there were pools of breast milk that he could go to sleep with in his mouth,” Ramsey explained.
While breastfeeding offers an infant many health benefits, problems can occur when the natural sugars in breast milk are left in contact with teeth for long periods.Â Sugar feeds decay-causing oral bacteria, and these bacteria in turn release tooth-eroding acids. The softer teeth of a young child are particularly vulnerable to these acids; the end result can be tooth decay.
This condition, technically known as “early child caries,” is referred to in laymen’s terms as “baby bottle tooth decay.” However, it can result from nighttime feedings by bottle or breast. The best way to prevent this problem is to avoid nursing babies to sleep at night once they reach the teething stage; a bottle-fed baby should not be allowed to fall asleep with anything but water in their bottle or “sippy cup.”
Here are some other basics of infant dental care that every parent should know:
- Wipe your baby’s newly emerging teeth with a clean, moist washcloth after feedings.
- Brush teeth that have completely grown in with a soft-bristled, child-size toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste no bigger than a grain of rice.
- Start regular dental checkups by the first birthday.
Fortunately, Ramsey reports that his son is doing very well after an extended period of professional dental treatments and parental vigilance.
“It took a number of months, but his teeth are much, much better,” he said. “Right now we’re still helping him and we’re still really on top of the teeth situation.”
If you would like more information on dental care for babies and toddlers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Age One Dental Visit” and “Dentistry & Oral Health for Children.”
Tooth decay doesn’t suddenly appear out of the blue. Cavities and other damage are the result of a long process that begins with bacteria living in a thin biofilm on tooth surfaces known as plaque. These bacteria thrive on sugars from leftover food in your mouth and then produce acid as a waste product. Chronic high levels of acid cause your enamel, the protective layer of your teeth, to soften and erode.
While there are treatment options at each stage of decay — including crowning or even tooth replacement — the best approach is to try to prevent plaque buildup that supports disease-causing bacteria. Here are 3 of the best ways you can do that.
Brush and floss daily. It usually takes 12-24 hours for enough plaque buildup to support bacteria. By brushing and flossing at least once a day, you can remove most of this buildup, with twice a year dental cleanings to remove hard to reach plaque you may have missed. Be sure to use fluoride toothpaste to help strengthen enamel against high acid. And wait a half hour to an hour after eating before brushing to give saliva time to reduce the acid level in your mouth.
Cut back on sweets. You’re not the only one who loves sugary snack foods — so do oral bacteria. The more sugar and other carbohydrates they feast on, the more they produce acid. The best approach is to cut out sugar-rich snacks altogether and instead snack on fresh fruits, raw vegetables or dairy products. Limit sweet treats to meal times.
Use decay-fighting supplements. Your mouth and hygiene efforts may need a little assistance, especially if you have low saliva flow. You can boost this with an artificial saliva supplement as well as with products containing xylitol, an alcohol-based sugar. Xylitol also has an added benefit in the fight against decay because it inhibits bacterial growth. And be sure to talk with us first before taking any dental supplement.
If you would like more information on dental hygiene and care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cost-Saving Treatment Alternatives.”
Look around and you’ll find warning labels on lots of household items: alcoholic beverages, drain uncloggers, pesticides and pool toys (not to mention cigarettes and chainsaws). Now, California lawmakers are proposing to add one more item to the list: sugary soft drinks. A bill to that effect recently passed the California state Senate, and is presently headed to the Assembly. If approved by both houses and signed by the governor, it would require sugary beverages to carry a warning label.
The proposed label would read: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.” It would appear on drink packaging and vending machines. While some may feel it’s an infringement on personal choice, recent polling seems to show that the tide of public opinion may have turned toward recognizing the potential health dangers of sugary drinks.
How real are those dangers? The medical groups sponsoring the bill (including the California Medical Association) point to numerous scientific studies showing, among other things, that:
- Drinking one soda per day increases an adult’s likelihood of being overweight by 27 percent — and for a child, the likelihood is doubled!
- Drinking one or two sodas per day increases the risk of developing type II diabetes by 26 percent.
- People who drink two to three sodas per day are 2.75 times more likely to have a heart attack.
- Drinking sugary beverages daily for only two weeks increases LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels by 20 percent; over a longer period, it has even worse effects.
- Children who consume sugary beverages are much more likely to develop tooth decay.
No matter where you stand on the debate over warning labels, you should understand the potential dangers of consuming foods and beverages with added sugar. For years, dentists have been cautioning people to limit their intake of sugary treats, including sodas and other sweets. Initially, our warnings came from the standpoint of oral health. Now, we have evidence that many other health problems have the same cause. We want to share this information with you because we’re concerned about your overall health — not just your oral health. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Think Before You Drink.”