My Child Brushes Regularly & Still Gets Cavities – Why?

Sheehan Dental – Dentistry for Children in Palos Park, IL

Cavities are a problem that affect millions of children in the US and around the world. The problem is so widespread that it impacts more than a quarter of children aged 2 to 5, and this number rises to in excess of 40% for children between the ages of 2 and 11, who will develop at least one cavity during their childhood. While very common, cavities can be prevented, and brushing plays a big but not absolute part in this.

Brushing is one of the most important dental hygiene practices for children and adults. The importance of brushing cannot be understated, as it prevents a build-up of plaque, stimulates the gums, and protects against problems like cavities. However, in much the same way that for a healthy body both exercise and a good diet are important, brushing alone cannot prevent cavities in entirety. 

The Truth Behind Dental Cavities

Cavities are also known as tooth decay or dental caries. The primary reason that cavities appear are because of acid-producing bacteria, which can cause the enamel on the outside of the tooth to dissolve before eventually attacking the inner tooth.

The early signs of tooth decay can often be identified by spots of a chalky appearance on the exterior of the tooth, but if the decay is not identified, tooth loss can be the result. 

For the acids to be produced, a combination of a bacteria known as streptococcus mutans – which is a major cause of tooth decay – and sugar are required. When sugar enters the mouth, the bacteria start to feed on it, eventually producing acid which will attack the teeth for a short duration.

While children are not born with the bacteria that can cause cavities, through cross contamination, often from their parents, the bacteria quickly become present in their mouths. 

Every time that a child consumes sugary food, or even carbohydrates that can be broken down into sugar, the bacteria work to produce acid. This means that even if a child brushes their teeth twice a day, it may not be enough to combat the acid attacks if sugary food is consumed regularly. 

For parents who are prone to cavities, the bacteria in their children’s mouths can also be a higher risk, in turn making the child more prone to tooth decay. If a child has more bacteria in their mouths that cause tooth decay, then cavities are going to be more likely to occur, even with regular brushing and flossing. 

Top Tips for Preventing Cavities in Children

To prevent problems like cavities, brushing is essential, as it gets rid of the dangerous bacteria and sugar from the teeth, as well as plaque. Using fluoride toothpaste for children over the age of two is also important as it can help to counter the effects of tooth decay, like calcium loss.

However, for children, and especially those with a higher risk of developing cavities, more than brushing is required. Here are four top tips for preventing cavities in children:

Be Cautious of Drinks

Sugary drinks can be a major cause of tooth decay, whether in the form of fruit juice, soda, or even breast milk for younger children. As drinks can stay in the mouth for long durations of time, particularly if a child is given a bottle at night, the sugar also stays in the mouth for a considerable amount of time. Ensuring that sugary drinks are limited and consumed quickly is important for reducing the risk of cavities. 

Reduce Sugary Foods

Rather than the amount of sugary foods being a concern, it’s more the frequency of consumption. The more often sugar is consumed, the more regularly teeth will be attacked. Limiting sugary foods and cutting down on sweets that stay in the mouth for a long time, like lollipops, will help to prevent cavities. 

Limit Cross Contamination

For parents who have a history of tooth decay, it’s important to be wary of cross contamination and follow good oral hygiene habits. Not sharing utensils and toothbrushes, as well as stopping younger children from putting their fingers in your mouth will reduce the transfer of bacteria, while regular dental check-ups and brushing will lower the levels of bacteria in your mouth. 

Visit the Dentist

Children should visit the dentist by their first birthdays, and then attend regular dental check-ups afterwards. Visiting the dentist is vital for early identification of problems, advice on the best hygiene techniques and practices, and for preventive treatment.

Treatments like fluoride varnish application can protect a child’s teeth and keep them strong. If tooth decay does start to appear, then a dentist will be able to spot the signs early and help to prevent more serious problems from occurring.

Reducing sugar intake, following a good brushing routine after eating, looking after your own dental hygiene, and making regular visits to the dentist can all help to prevent your child getting cavities, going above and beyond what brushing alone can achieve. 

Please feel free to call our offices to answer any questions about your child’s dental health, to schedule a dental appointment for your child, or if you just need to talk to Dr. Sheehan and our staff about caring for your child’s health; we’re here to help.

To prepare for your child’s visit, we have created an activity kit to familiarize your child with their teeth and help them look forward to their dental visit at our dental office in Palos Park, Illinois.

» Getting to know your teeth is fun! Get comfortable with your teeth with our Dynamite Dental Fun Kit.