How to Prevent Cavities

Between moving to Utah/getting married and having our first little one I worked at a dental hygiene college. I am passionate about teaching and love working with children. That is all I had ever done. In fact I left a job I loved working with a Head Start Program in Arizona. I was so disappointed to not be able to find a job in that field. However, in hind sight, what a blessing that job was working at the dental hygiene college. I met some of my very good friends there. One of them being Candi. Read more about Candi and her feelings of motherhood in a previous post I did about her here. I learned a lot during my time there and continue to learn a lot from my dental hygiene friends. Candi was sweet enough to write up a post to share with us about what we can do to prevent cavities!

via google images

I have a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene.  I am passionate about prevention.  I love learning about dentistry. I spend time reading to my baby about different dental topics almost everyday.  I just can't get enough!!   Its exciting to think that if you do your part that your children can have a healthy mouth. Healthy mouth = a healthy body.

I have seen a lot of moms discouraged because their child has a mouth full of cavities. The mom is faced with a huge expense of getting the decay taken care of.  Not to mention, a child that is terrified of the dentist now probably will be for life.   The mother doesn't know what she could have done different.  I don't think its  the mom fault at all.  I think there is a huge gap of knowledge between dental professionals and parents.  

 I must say that when I first started in the dental field I was under the impression (that most parents are) that cavities were caused because the child ate too much sugar.  Or that some people just had weak teeth. I thought that probably everyone was going to experience having a cavity at some point...and if he/she didn't..it was because he/she got lucky.  I no longer think that way.  Most parents think that its not if but when their child gets a cavity.....


Some parents might think that it doesn't matter if their kids teeth get cavities if they're not in the childs permanent teeth.  The truth is the baby teeth can affect the permanet teeth coming in, so it does matter. Also if you are proactive in taking care of your babies mouth he/she will avoid alot of dental pain.  And you will save a lot of money.  Not to mention, a healthy mouth is directly related to a healthy body.  Give your baby/child the best start you can.  

Here are some things I like to tell my patients.  If you guys have any questions please write a comment and I will write back.  (also let me know if you want to see any of the journals I got my info from)

First things first...Take care of your own mouth!!  The harmful bacteria in your mouth can be transferred to your child’s mouth.  Studies indicate that babies mostly have their moms bacteria.  As moms we kiss, blow food off, lick pacifers (eww), etc.... So get your mouth under control so you are not passing bacteria that causes cavites to your baby.  People often don't think of cavities as something that can be passed...Bacteria that cause cavities can be passed from person to person!! 

For those that aren't familiar with how cavities work its not about how much sugar but how often.  I learned in school that it would be better for you to give your kids ALL of their Halloween candy at once than to have them take a bite of a candy bar every hour (probably not the best thing for their health to have it all at once ;) but its just an example.

 Its about FREQUENCY not QUANTITY. Everytime sugar or other carbs are consumed the bacteria feeds off the sugar and produces acid.  The acid drops the PH of the mouth and demineralization of the teeth takes place.  It takes time for the mouth to get back to a normal PH where it can start remineralizing again.

What can you do?  I made a list of things you as a parent can do. 

I included cariostatic foods.  Which are foods that actually help prevent tooth decay.  These foods make great snacks and are great foods to end sugary meals or beverages with.  There was a study done where they ended school aged childrens meals with a cube of swiss cheese and the caries rates dropped significantly.  I encourage you to add some of these foods to your kids diets.  Or atleast rinse with some water after your child eats a sugar or carb food.

I also included xylitol.  For those that are not familiar with xylitol it is a natural sugar.  (The stuff is amazing).  It comes from birch bark, fruits (including strawberries), corn cobs and even your body makes small amouts.  Xylitol acts like a fiber in the body so it doesn't give you sugar spikes (also has less calories than sugar).  Xylitol has been studied for over 100 years.  It has been studied in dentistry for over 40 years.  The bacteria in the mouth cannot process xylitol (it has 5 carbon units instead of 6) and therefore cannot produce acid.  They have found 80% reduction in cavities in children that are exposed to xyltiol 5x daily. (Brush kids teeth with xylitol and then give them gum, candy or mints after meals that are 100 % xylitol).   In some countries xylitol is given to kids at school as a way to prevent cavities. 

Probably the MOST important thing you can do is Brush your kids teeth after them!!!!  They are not old enough to even attempt to brush alone until they can tie their own shoe laces. And DON'T let them sip on sugary juices or beverages throughout the day and especially not in bed.  (this includes putting the baby down with milk)

  • Wipe infants teeth off with a damp cloth or xylitol wipes (Spiffles)
  • Always brush your child’s teeth after they do (at least until age 7)
  • Set timer or play/sing a fun song for two minutes 
    Brush with age appropriate toothbrush and toothpaste or xylitol toothpaste
                   “smear” of toothpaste for children less than two years of age.
                   “pea-size” amount of toothpaste for children two to five years.

    • Floss teeth that are in contact with one another 
    • Fluoride drops starting at 6 months of age (in non-fluoridated areas) 
    • ACT Fluoride mouth rinse for children 6 and older.  (Dip toothbrush in act fluoride if your child cannot spit.) 
    •  End snacks or meals with the following foods that help prevent tooth decay:
    hard cheeses (like swiss)
    dark chocolate (80 % cocoa)
    licorice (from health food stores)
     fibrous fruits (including apples, not apple juice)
      vegetables (like celery)

    • Expose teeth to 5-10 grams of xylitol (= 2 tsp of xylitol) 5x daily- Studies show it reduces tooth decay up to 80% and ear infections in a recent study by 93 %
    • Brush morning and night with xylitol toothpaste. 3x daily let your child end meals with a xylitol product.
    • Xylitol gum (Spry)
    •  8 ounces water with 1/4 tsp of Xylitol dissolved
    • Xylitol mints or candy
    •  Xylitol lollypops
    AVOID The Following
    • Sippy cups or bottles at sleep time
    • Juice or sugary beverages in-between meals
    • Frequent snacking on sugary foods ( foods not listed above)
    • Sharing toothbrushes
    Limit The Following:

    • Sticky, Starchy or Sugary foods that can stay on the teeth for extended periods of timeExamples: Fruit Roll-Ups, potato chips, candy or sugary mouth lozenges or gum

    Products To Be Purchased:

    • Xylitol products can be found at your local health food store or on the Internet
    • ACT mouthwash and children’s toothpaste can be found in the dental isle of most drug stores or super markets

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