As much as we love our patients at the Kidds Place, visiting the dentist for a filling can be uncomfortable! Luckily there are more specific ways to keep your teeth healthy and clean besides the obvious. We have all heard it before: brush twice daily, floss, go to the dentist, and do not eat too much sugar. It sounds simple, but does it truly guarantee a filling-free mouth? Every mouth is different, and even the best brushers can still experience decay. But there’s more steps you can take towards cavity prevention for a lifelong healthy smile.
How Does a Cavity Even Form?
Cavities are formed when plaque buildup weakens the tooth enamel, causing it to soften. Plaque is a sticky substance that forms on teeth when sugar from food has been solidified over a period of time by the bacteria in our mouths. Enamel is a natural hard coating of the tooth made up of minerals such as calcium. If the plaque sticking to the surface of the enamel is not brushed away, it begins to eat away at it. When this occurs, acids begin to penetrate and diminish the tooth itself, causing the dark or black spot where decay has occurred. This is called a cavity because it is a literal chasm that has formed in the tooth itself. It is recommended that children as well as adults receive a teeth cleaning twice yearly. These remove plaque build-up and keep teeth polished and smooth. However, here are some measures you and your family can take outside of the dentist chair.
Foods to Avoid & Foods to Eat
What is the common phrase? “Don’t eat too much sugar, or your teeth will rot!” While it’s true that excess sugar can harm your teeth, there is little point trying to scare kids out of eating sugar so they wont have to “go to the dentist and get a shot”, because while sugar can cause plaque, so can anything high in carbohydrates. This is because all carbs are eventually broken down into simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose. The solution is simply ensuring that plaque formed from these types of food is properly removed, so no permanent damage can be done to teeth.
While we are all taught to moderate certain foods, did you know there are foods that actually help strengthen your enamel? Any foods rich in calcium – milk, cheese, yogurt, can make the enamel stronger and therefore develop a thicker shield against cavities.
Eat apples! It is said that they can actually clean your teeth. The fleshy fibers found in the white of the apple can act as tiny little “toothbrushes” that scrub at your teeth as you chew. It goes to show that “an apple a day” can keep the dentist away too! (Although, don’t skip out on your twice yearly cleaning). If your kids like celery, it too is known to have a similar effect!
Drink lots of water. Most water systems in the U.S. contain fluoride – one of the minerals commonly used to strengthen teeth. What is more, drinking water ultimately produces more saliva, which can wash away bacteria in the mouth between brushing.
Dentists recommend brushing for two minutes, twice daily – once in the morning and once at night. If your child likes to be speedy and brushes too quickly, practice setting a timer for 2 minutes to ensure they reach every area of their mouth. Remember also that if kids cannot yet tie their shoes, studies show that they have not yet developed the coordination or strength to brush their teeth on their own.
Flossing and rinsing with mouthwash every day can seem like a lot, but try to develop the habit of flossing with the morning brushing, and rinsing with the evening brushing. Floss can reach the pesky plaque that a toothbrush can not – in fact, did you know brushing only cleans two-thirds of our teeth? Floss gets between and cleans the one-third a toothbrush cannot. Imagine if you went your whole life without flossing! There would always be a third of your teeth that never got cleaned. To round it off, mouthwash kills excess bacteria all over the mouth, not just teeth, but gums, tongue, cheeks and roof of mouth where germs can also spread. Using all three can help your kids to be cavity free!