The Science and Truth Behind Your Child’s Cavities

The Science and Truth Behind Your Child’s Cavities
Posted on 04/11/2018

The Science and Truth Behind Your Child’s Cavities

At Laredo Orthodontics, our mission is to help our patients achieve beautiful, healthy smiles through quality, convenient orthodontic treatment. As a leading orthodontic practice serving the Laredo, TX area, we’re proud to provide treatments ranging from traditional metal braces to alternatives like Invisalign – but in addition to providing treatment, we strive to be a comprehensive resource for your oral health. If you’ve been wondering about the specific mechanics of what causes cavities, you’re not alone. Learn what our Laredo orthodontist, Dr. James VandeBerg, has to say about the science and the truth behind cavities.

The Cavity Equation

You ran the carpool. You cooked a great dinner. You checked the kids’ homework – and somehow, you even managed to get them to brush their teeth and floss. You even get them to see their Laredo dentist on time, every six months. You’re a miracle worker.

So why are your kids still getting cavities?

As a parent, this can cause unending frustration. Even though you make sure every child takes good care of their teeth, you still find that some kids get cavities while others don’t. What’s causing the difference in results?

Unfortunately, thinking only about oral hygiene and prevention is looking at the problem the wrong way. To uncover the true cause of cavities, we have to understand this crucial equation:

Bacteria + Sugar   =   ACID on Teeth   =   Cavities in Teeth

When bacteria break down the sugars and carbohydrates in food, they create acids. Acid dissolves enamel, pure and simple. If left unchecked for long enough, acid will eventually eat a hole through the enamel – this is a cavity. 

Conventional wisdom says that a toothbrush will clear away bacteria, preventing the formation of cavity-causing acid. But this is flawed. No matter how hard you brush, consumer toothbrushes simply aren’t strong enough to actually remove acid-forming bacteria. They’re simply too prevalent in the mouth. This means that brushing and flossing alone isn’t enough to stop cavities. There’s another factor at play.

How to Prevent Cavities in Your Child

Take a look at our cavity equation above. If we can’t get rid of the bacteria, what’s the only other variable we have control over? You guessed it – sugar. 

Kids crave sugar because it provides high-density calories, which their bodies need to fuel growth. And as a parent of three, trust me – I understand just how strong those cravings can be. But by minimizing your children’s access to sugar, you can help prevent the formation of acid in their mouths, making your oral hygiene routine more effective and preventing cavities. In fact, simply not buying and bringing home cavity-causing foods can have a dramatic impact on your child’s oral health. 

Try to minimize your child’s exposure to sugar by avoiding some of these common cavity-causing foods and drinks:

  • Candy
  • Chocolate
  • Caramels
  • Fruit Roll-ups
  • Fruit gummies
  • Gatorade
  • Soda

This doesn’t mean you have to deprive your children of all things good in the world. But making small changes to your grocery list can have a big impact over time. Try swapping out sweets for crackers, cheese, chips, or even diet soda. Even small changes can lead to much happier dental visits later on.

Does Brushing Your Teeth Actually Prevent Cavities?

Now we know that brushing and flossing teeth can’t remove the bacteria that cause cavities. So why do dentists everywhere insist that we do it? In fact, brushing and flossing isn’t really about dental health at all – instead, it’s about protecting the health of the gums. Believe it or not, the leading cause of tooth loss in the US is gum disease. Periodontal disease is one of the most common preventable conditions, and that risk increases as a person ages. Your children probably aren’t at risk of developing gingivitis at such an early age, but forming those habits now makes them last a lifetime. Regular brushing and flossing acts as a safeguard against gum disease and all the problems that come with it. 

But there is one more effect that brushing has on teeth. The fluoride in toothpaste helps repair small patches of enamel that have been dissolved by acids, replenishing them with a vital mineral and strengthening the teeth against decay. Believe it or not, this is the primary effect that brushing has on the teeth!

How Do Dentists Prevent Cavities?

Even once you’ve cleared the sweets out of the pantry and instituted a strict regimen of fluoridated toothpaste in your house, though, we’re still shy of what’s necessary to prevent cavities. 

Regular (every six months) visits to the dentist’s office are absolutely vital for protecting your children from cavities. In addition to checking for a slew of other problems, dentists can check for and repair small cavities.

Early-stage cavities, when found by a dentist, can be repaired with medical-grade, high-concentration fluoride treatments. By applying a fluoride foam or varnish, your dentist can strengthen the tooth enamel around a cavity and reverse it while it’s still in its smallest stages. And if a cavity grows beyond fluoride repair, your dentist can clean and fill it before it reaches the inside of the tooth and needs more serious repairs. 

So at the end of the day, all the conventional guidelines for preventing cavities still ring true – but for different reasons than you may have thought initially. If you want to prevent cavities in your child and preserve their teeth for a lifetime, follow this formula:

  • Minimize sweets and exposure to sugar
  • Maintain regular dental appointments every 6 months
  • Instill strong oral hygiene habits to protect the gums over the long term

These simple steps will help to protect the health of your child’s teeth and smile for the rest of their life – and that is truly something worth smiling about!

James VandeBerg DDS, MS 
Orthodontist at Boerne Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry

Schedule an Appointment with Your San Antonio Orthodontist

Now you know the science and truth behind cavities – but even that’s not the whole picture! In addition to the factors above, improving the alignment of teeth helps to keep them clean. The only way to do that? Visit your Laredo family orthodontist! At Laredo Orthodontics, we proudly provide high-quality orthodontic treatment to patients of all ages, and we’d love to do the same for you or your child. Take the first step to protecting your child’s teeth and smile for a lifetime. Request a consultation today!