Cavities and Tooth Decay

By: J. Shahangian, DDS, MS- San Diego Board Certified Pediatric Dentist

Cavities and Tooth Decay
The term “caries” is the more commonly know disease called tooth decay.  The disease caries is the result of the destruction of the enamel, dentin, or cementum of the tooth due to the long-term exposure to noxious bacteria.

Many diseases such as “caries”, commonly known as tooth decay, are preventable.  This is possible by promoting a balanced diet.  It is important for parents to know that foods rich in carbohydrates (such as sugar and starches) can be harmful if you feed them too often to your child.  These foods include: cakes, sods, milk, and ice cream.  Did you know that even juices, vegetables, and fruits can cause tooth decay.

These types of foods are fuel for the bacterial film on your gums and teeth.    This bacterial film is known as plaque.  Plaque feeds off of the sugary deposits that are left on your teeth and produces acids.  The acids erode the enamel, the protective cover of your teeth, and over time demineralize the structure of your teeth.  This leads to the weakening of teeth and tooth decay.

Plaque found on your teeth and gums is a film of bacteria that feeds off of the food in your mouth, and produces harmful acids.  For this reason it is important that you minimize the intake of foods high in carbohydrates.  Also, make sure your child brushes and flosses after eating the following foods: cereal, crackers, bread, cookies, candy, and other starchy foods.

Remember to brush and floss your child’s teeth.  The longer food remains on your teeth, the more plaque accumulates and more acid is produced.  This acid “eats away” at the enamel on your teeth and your gums.  Eventually, this leads to cavities.  Interestingly enough, the space surrounding fillings or amalgams are vulnerable to tooth decay because bacteria can hide and breed there.

Plaque can also lead to gum redness, soreness, and irritation,in addition to causing cavities.  Plaque can lead to serious long term problems.  For example, the bacteria found around the tooth structure can form small sacks of disease which can eventually destroy the bone found under the tooth.

Caries can affect children at a young age.  I recommend that you do not allow your child to sleep while drinking from a bottle unless the bottle is filled with water.  Milk and juices contain sugar that can be bad for your child’s teeth.  When your child sleeps with a bottle, these liquids bathe the teeth and pool in the mouth, creating and opportunistic environment for the harmful bacteria.

This is how childhood carries happens, when liquids such as milk, formula, fruit juice, and other sweetened liquids are left sitting in your child’s mouth.  Eventually, your child can develop cavities due to baby bottle tooth decay.  If left untreated, this can destroy your child’s teeth.

I recommend two things, one, avoid breastfeeding your child at will after her/his first baby tooth has erupted.  Second, do not allow your child to fall asleep while drinking a bottle.[1]

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