Most of the time cavities are due to a diet high in sugary and starchy foods and a lack of brushing and flossing.
Limiting sugar and simple carbohydrate intake can help reduce the chance of cavities. Avoiding foods that are sticky such as lollipops and gummy bears also help to keep cavities away. People who snack more frequently or sip their drinks (other than water) throughout the day are also more prone to tooth decay. Every time someone eats, an acid reaction occurs inside their mouth as the bacteria digests the sugars. This reaction lasts approximately 20-30 minutes. During this time, the acid environment can destroy the tooth structure. Therefore, people who eat or drink frequently throughout the day get more “acid attacks” and are thus more susceptible to getting cavities.
It’s also important to start brushing your child teeth once they first appear. Everyone needs to brush twice a day – 2 minutes in the morning and two minutes at night. Also, some kids as young as 2 years old need to floss! Ask your dentist to assess whether or not your child needs to start flossing.
Fluoride also helps to make your teeth more resistant to cavities. The most common potential sources of fluoride include toothpaste, community water, and fluoride treatments from your dentist. Not all toothpastes have fluoride so check your toothpaste’s list of active ingredients for either sodium fluoride or stannous fluoride. Furthermore, not all communities have fluoridated water. Fortunately for New York City residents, the water is optimally fluoridated. To verify if your water is fluoridated, call your local water supplier.
Regular dental check-ups also help prevent cavities. We can help identify behaviors or conditions that may make your child more susceptible to caries. Also, your dentist can catch cavities early if you visit your dentist regularly and start taking your child to the dentist by age 1.
Some tips for cavity prevention:
- Limit frequency of meals and snacks.
- Encourage brushing, flossing, and rinsing.
- Watch what you drink.
- Avoid sticky foods.
- Make treats part of meals.
- Choose nutritious snacks.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride helps make teeth strong and prevents tooth decay. If the water where you live does not have enough fluoride, your doctor may prescribe daily fluoride supplements (fluoride drops or pills). For children who need fluoride supplements, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends starting when your child is about six months old and ending the supplementation once they are 16 years old (or until you move to an area with the proper levels of fluoride in the water).
In regards to fluoride supplements and fluoride toothpaste, make sure you only give as much as directed because too much fluoride can cause spots on your child’s teeth. These spots or irregularities from fluoride over-exposure is known as fluorosis. Also, be sure to call your local water authority and ask if your water is fluoridated and at what level the water is fluoridated. If it is, tell your dentist or pediatrician to ensure that your child is not over- or under-fluoridated.