Children are at a higher risk to develop cavities. In addition to providing restorative fillings in Worcester, MA, we also help our patients take steps to prevent dental cavities. Dental decay is common, especially amongst children. Thankfully, with new products, technologies, and materials, we can make getting a filling faster and easier.
While our restorative treatments will take care of individual cavities, we want our patients to know how to prevent decay, too. Patient (and parent) education is a high priority for our dental team.
Here's what you need to know about dental decay.
Bacteria is the main culprit. If your child has higher than average cavity forming bacteria, they'll be at a higher risk for developing decay. However, bacteria aren't the only problem. It's also important to focus on what's feeding the bacteria — namely, carbohydrates. How often someone consumes carbohydrates is equally important.
Just to be clear, we're not advocating for a low carb diet. Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates all play a vital role to the health, function, and growth of a child's body. Carbohydrates break down into sugars, though, and sugars are what bacteria love to eat. If your child is eating a healthy, balanced diet with only the occasional sugary treat (as opposed to frequent snacking), and they brush after each meal, their risk of decay is reduced.
If, though, their diet consists of a lot of soda, candy, cookies, chips, dried fruit, and other simple sugars, they're at a significantly higher risk of getting cavities. The longer a certain food stays in the mouth before it is brushed away, the greater the risk for developing cavities is.
Bacteria convert sugars to acid, which damage the enamel, causing dental decay. You can't always see a cavity with the naked eye, though, at times, you might notice a white, brown, or black spot on the child's teeth. White spots indicate decalcification of the enamel, areas that are more susceptible to decay. Black and brown spots are more often indicative of a cavity.
Early Childhood Caries is decay on multiple teeth or throughout the mouth. In smaller children, it's also known as baby bottle decay. When young children are sent to bed with a bottle of milk or juice, their teeth are essentially bathed in sugar for an extended period of time. Eventually, most (if not all) of their teeth have decay. In these situations, fillings may not be sufficient. Dental crowns, pulpotomies (the pediatric version of a root canal), and extractions are often necessary.
Absolutely! It takes around 20 minutes after eating for sugars to break down into acids. If your child brushes after each meal, they're less likely to get a cavity. If at all possible, it's best to brush after each meal and snack, but we know this isn't always practical. When your child isn't able to brush, they should at least rinse their mouth with water. As effective as brushing is, the bristles of a toothbrush aren't able to get in between the teeth or to the base of the gum pockets that surround each tooth. Only floss can do that. Flossing once a day — ideally at night — will do wonders for preventing dental cavities.
To treat dental cavities, your pediatric dentist will start by administering any necessary anesthesia. Once your child is numb, we'll use a variety of methods to remove the decay, which can include hand instruments, a handpiece (ie dental drill), or in some cases a laser.
After the decay has been removed, the dentist will condition the tooth. Then, they'll apply an adhesive, followed up by the soft, composite resin (tooth colored plastic) filling material. They'll place the material into the tooth and shape it. After that, they'll cure the resin with a blue light to harden it.
At the end of the appointment, the dentist will check your child's bite and make any necessary adjustments.
Visiting the dentist every six months is important because it allows your child's pediatric dentist to find decay in its earliest stages. A small cavity can be detected and restored in a shorter amount of time — even without anesthesia.
If your child doesn't see the dentist that often, small problems can grow into more complex dental issues that can be more painful and result in longer, more expensive dental procedures, such as:
When should your child see a dentist? As soon as they get their first teeth. At the very latest, they should have their first dental examination by their first birthday.
Seeing a pediatric dentist can help your child start their oral health care journey off on the right foot. We'll go over proper brushing and flossing techniques and how to make them fun for your kids. Our team will also discuss dietary recommendations to help reduce decay risk, as well as other preventative treatments that can keep your kids' teeth healthy.