As a father of two ORNS alumnae, I will share something personal with you. Twice a year, I feel like I am put on stage… Being judged… At my daughters’ semiannual dental checkup appointment. ?
I know it is crazy, but it seems like it’s a direct reflection of my parenting style if my daughters have a cavity! Here’s the punch line though, I feel even more pressure because I am a dentist. ??
The Ugly Truths About Cavities
There are some variables we can control and others we cannot. So let’s talk about the basics of cavities. This way, you can put your energy into the things you can control, rather than something you can’t.
3 Reasons Why Cavities Develop
This one is easy because you can’t do anything about it. We all have hundreds of different bacteria strains in our mouths. But their interactions are far from simple. Higher amounts of specific strains are associated with cavities. Other strains result in gum disease. And others do something we do not yet understand. Unless you plan on dedicating your life’s work to solving this mystery, you’d be better off leaving this one alone. Let’s move on…
2. Food For The Bacteria
Here’s one to pay attention to because you can control this. The bacteria that cause cavities really like carbohydrates. Isn’t it funny how we like them too?? But the bacteria don’t enjoy any old carb, they LOVE the simple ones (fructose, sucrose, lactose, maltose, etc.).
Now we all know the obvious sources of simple sugars are candy, soda, fruit juices, etc… But did you know that fruit snacks (even those ‘made with real organic fruit juice’), dried fruit, and bagels are almost as bad? Yes, they are less evil than a candy bar. But they still contain carbohydrates which cavity-causing-bacteria love. You want to know why? Because the sugar is not what causes the cavity. It’s the waste product from the bacteria’s metabolism (lactic acid) that causes the teeth to break down.
I’m not saying you should stop giving your kids dried fruit or bagels. But please keep in mind the old saying that the poison is in the dose. Now before you throw your hands up and give up, read the next point…
3. Time For The Bacteria To Metabolize Their Food
Make sure to pay attention because you can control this as well. Here are two scenarios to illustrate my point.
Let’s say your kiddo has a cup of orange juice. If they drink it in 10 minutes, no big deal. But if they sip on it for an hour, it provides the cavity-causing-bacteria more time to metabolize their food.
Now consider a situation in which your child is eating dried fruit. It’s not hard to imagine the dried fruit getting stuck in the deep grooves of the molar for a couple of hours, right? This gives the bacteria a constant supply of sugar to metabolize.
Both are well-intended snacks, but both have the potential to cause cavities if left unchecked.
Simple Solutions To These Challenges
The first easy solution…WATER. Let’s face it, we can all drink more water for the health of our bodies. But our mouths receive the most significant benefit. Water helps rinse the food particles away.
2. Brush Your Teeth More Often
The second solution is to brush our kid’s teeth more often. Who said brushing their teeth has to only happen in the morning and before bedtime? There is no harm in getting in the habit of brushing their teeth in the middle of the day.
3. Limit Sugary/Gummy Foods
This one is pretty self-explanatory. But it bears repeating because repetition is the key to remembering.
The Moral Of The Story?
As parents, we try our hardest to prevent undesirable things from happening to our kids. But the reality is that at some point the outcome will be what it will be. In the case of cavities, we can do two things:
- Limit sugary/gummy foods
- Reduce the time the natural bacteria in our mouths have to metabolize their food.
Do these two simple things, and it should result in cavities. If your little one still ends up getting a cavity, then don’t beat yourself up. You tried your best.
Next time, let’s talk about dental checkups, saliva, fluoride toothpaste, and fluoridated drinking water.
Before you go, check out some of our previous posts!