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How to Prevent Dental Decay

Pediatric Dentist - How to prevent dental decayPreventing Decay

Why People Get Decay (Cavities) and What You Can Do To Prevent It

Dental decay (cavities) happens when the germs in your mouth eat the sugar you take in to form acids that accumulate on your teeth. The acids literally dissolve the teeth, making the holes we call cavities. As the holes get bigger, they trap more germs, so the cavities continue to grow to the point where an abscess will form if the cavity is not cleaned out and repaired.

To Prevent Decay, We Stress:

  1. Daily effective oral hygiene measures at home including brushing, flossing, oral irrigators etc., to remove bacteria, plaque and accumulating acids.
  2. Early detection of open crevices on teeth and leaking old fillings to eradicate decay in its earliest stages.
  3. Reduction in dietary sugar to minimize the acid making potential of the bacteria that even the best brushing and flossing might miss.
  4. Prescription-strength Fluoride treatment to harden the teeth to make them more decay-resistant, for children and adults.
  5. Most important, consistent and regular professional dental examinations, cleanings and x-rays when appropriate to keep you apprised of your dental condition, increase home care effectiveness and clean the spots that are hard for you to get.

Diet and Dental CariesEating foods with sugar lets the germs in the mouth eat the sugar and make acids. It is the acids that actually cause decay, not the sugar. The top graph shows that with just 3 sugar contacts a day there is not too much acid to cause decay. The lower graph shows that if you eat snacks or meals with sugar many times a day, the bacteria keep eating the sugar and make acids all day long causing much more decay. In other words, a couple of little candies every hour is much worse for decay than even three big deserts. Of course, it is better to skip deserts except for an occasional treat. Remember that there is hidden sugar in many foods so please take the time to read the labels so you can keep the number of sugar contacts per day down.

The frequency of eating sugar is more important than the amount eaten to cause decay. Eating even small quantities of sugar between meals causes acids to form all day long leading to more decay.

Why Preventing Cavities Is So Important

When a tooth develops a cavity, the dentist puts in a filling. That is very important to stop severe damage, pain and infection and even tooth loss. Everyone knows that. But what most people do not think about is what happens next.

Most people think that once a dentist puts in a filling that is it... for ever. But that is not true. After all we eat and drink hot and cold things, we chew hard foods and many people even grind their teeth day and night. When we get new tires on a car, we all understand that the tires will wear out over time and need replacement. The heels on our shoes wear out, the house needs to be repainted, the faucets start to leak and so do your fillings. Every filling will eventually lose its seal, and start to leak. And when that happens, you start to get another cavity under the filling. So that first cavity that needs to be filled means that you are going to need another 3-4 fillings in that same tooth over the years.

Another important fact is that the sooner the cavity is discovered, the smaller it is. That means that the filling can be smaller. Smaller fillings are stronger and tend to last longer.

To make matters even worse, the next cavity that develops under the first filling will be bigger than the first cavity, so the filling will need to be bigger than the first one and not as strong as the smaller first one. Then it will leak and fail and the next one will be bigger still. Eventually this cycle of fill, leak and refill is what leads to crowns and root canals on teeth over the years.

How do you stop or at least slow the cycle?

First stop the first cavities:

Second, catch cavities early. Keep your check ups regular, at least 2 X a year and more often if you have braces or a problem with plaque or have inherited weaker than average teeth. Inspect old fillings regularly and carefully. If you can catch a leaking filling early, the new decay will not be that deep and the new filling will not have to be so big. That means that it will likely hold up for a longer time.

All cavities are not avoidable, but we are here to help.

Preventing Cavities by Proper Home Care

Proper home care for kids is the same as adults. Brush add floss. It is easier because kids have fewer teeth. But, kids have less manual dexterity, less focus and concentration and less motivation than adults. The solution is for Mom or Dad, or some other adult to take charge, especially when the kids are small.

You can start brushing kids teeth as soon as they come in, at age 6 months or so. It is best to lie the child down on your lap and use a very small, soft tooth brush without toothpaste. With a little practice, you can do this in a minute or so.

When the child gets older and the teeth begin to touch, especially the back teeth, start flossing your children's teeth. Do this in exactly the same position, with their head in your lap. It is fast and easy so you can do this every day for them. If you start early and they get used to it, they won't floss when its time to brush and floss.

We also recommend that you continue to brush and floss your children's teeth until they are old enough and responsible enough to do it themselves. Remember, most small children will want to brush their own teeth but won't do it very well. In fact, they mostly eat the toothpaste.

Make this process fun and create the daily brush and floss routine as quality time so the kids look forward to it.

Prevent Cavities by Controlling Sugar in Kids' Diet

The best advice we can give you is to avoid refined sugar in foods and beverages. Sugar, whether it is called sugar, sucrose, corn syrup, brown sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar etc., contains the molecule sucrose. Sucrose is made up of 2 molecules of glucose joined together. This is the sugar that causes dental decay. Click here to read "Everything Your Mother (or Anyone Else) Never Told You About Sugar & Decay"

Thoughtful Snacking

We want to take this opportunity to make some suggestions about thoughtful snacking for our Dental Care Kids patients and their parents.

While we know that eating sugar is not good for our teeth, we also know that sweets are associated with fun and part of most people’s culture and so we offer our Dental Care Kids patients an annual treat for keeping their dental check ups and being good brushers if that is OK with their parents.

Eating a sugar snack once in a while is not really a problem. The problem is when people eat sugar snacks at meals and then several times a day in between meals as well. Also a sugar filled gummy bear that sticks to the teeth eaten between meals with absolutely no nutritional value is much worse than an ice cream treat eaten once a month that at least has some milk and calcium in it.

As a suggestion we recommend that sugar snacks be considered as a special event and not as a daily habit. The very first key to thoughtful snacking is to limit the junk foods that you buy and bring home from the store. Junk food people do their advertising on TV when the kids are watching so be aware of what your kids are seeing on children’s TV shows. When you do your shopping, try to “drive the shopping cart around the junk food aisles in the market” so you won’t be overly influenced by your kids.

The frequency you eat sugar is much more significant in so far as cavities are concerned than the total amount of sugar eaten. And sticky treats are worse than ones that do not adhere to the teeth. Pick appropriate times and occasions for snacks and stick to it.

The team at Dental Care Kids is committed to the well being of our children patients and looks forward to your suggestions and feed back.

Prevent Cavities with Fluoride for Kids by Proper Use of Fluoride

Home Fluoride for Children Under 12

Proper use of FluorideFluoride works by hardening the enamel to make the enamel of the teeth harder and more resistant to decay that forms on the sides and in-between teeth. Fluoride for kids 12 and under works best taken internally so the fluoride becomes a part of the teeth as they grow. The best way to get fluoride is to drink water that has been tested to contain 1 part per million of fluoride. For the proper dosage, you need to drink 2 cups of water or reconstituted fruit juice per day.

Once a child passes 12 years of age, internal fluoride is of no help because the teeth are all grown. If you are on city water, call the local Department of Health to verify that your water is fluoridated. All the towns in Fairfield County have fluoridated water. If you are on a well, you must get the water tested by the Department of Health.

Fluoride is the l3th most common element on the earth. Oceans are naturally fluoridated. We know some people are fearful of fluoride as cancer-causing but there are places in the Southwest United States that naturally have water with 5 to 10 times more fluoride than recommended. As far as we know, the water has been that way for thousands of years and no one has ever reported a higher rate of any kind of disease in those areas.

If your well does not have enough fluoride or your family drinks primarily bottled water or whole fruit juice etc., then your children probably need fluoride supplements. We recommend the kind that looks like a little candy mint which your child dissolves it in his or her mouth so it works both on the teeth and in the developing permanent teeth. Rinsing programs at school are "rinse and spit" so there is no internal benefit for growing teeth. We recommend either drinking 2 cups of fluoridated water daily or prescription fluoride supplements. Available by prescription at the dentist.

Prevent Cavities with Regular Check-ups

Regular dental care is a life long need. And, like most other things that are good for us, it is a habit that needs to be started early.

Child playing video gamesThe benefits of regular check-ups for kids is that they learn early that the dental office can be a fun place for kids. At Dental Care of Stamford we have video games, cable television in every treatment room, kids video movies along with some fun toys in the toy box and helium balloons.

But most important, we have a staff that enjoys kids. Their love for children comes through at every visit.

In addition, we'll help teach kids and their parents the proper methods of brushing and flossing. We'll also teach kids and parents about fluoride for kids and tips on proper snacking to minimize decay.

Fun trip to the pediatric dentist Even a rainy day can't stop
a fun trip to the dentist

Also, if we find spots that are starting to decay, we can fix them early before big cavities develop. Since we use laser bonded, tooth colored and practice minimally invasive dentistry, catching problems while they are still small is a big plus.

And of course being part of the Dental Care family has lots of other benefits too. You get the best state of the art dental care and equipment, the advantage of convenient hours all week and Saturdays, the chance to have several family members appointments at the same time to make dental care faster and easier for all.

In addition, you have access to the whole team at Dental Care for your kids, including orthodontic braces. There is even a complementary consultation with the orthodontist for any patient of Dental Care of Stamford.

BracesBraces to match your clothes! Cool!

The Shark Jaw Story

Did you know that the ocean covers 71% of our planet? There are more than 100 fish teeth in the ocean for every single animal tooth on land! Dolphins have 96 teeth and whales have more than 1,000. Barracudas have several rows of teeth, and so does a shark. Sharks eat all day long, they never brush, they never floss, and they never see the sharky hygienist!

There has never been a single cavity found in the ocean! In fact, on land we find only two groups of animals that experience tooth decay: human beings (and their domestic pets), and bears.

Have you figured out why so many people have needless cavities that require fillings? There are two reasons. First is our diet. Bears eat gallons of honey at a time. In over 22 countries, humans consume more than 120 pounds of sugar a year-per person! This causes a lot of decay. Dogs and cats in the wild never get a cavity, but when you feed them human food, they can get cavities. In some countries, like China, most people eat such small quantities of sugar that entire cities are cavity free. In fact, guess which country has the most cavities per person. That's right: the United State of America. So, if you never want another cavity, quit consuming sugar!

The second reason that fish don't get decay is that the ocean is one part per million fluoride solution. Fluoride is the l3th most common element on the planet. Fish and their teeth are constantly soaking in a fluoride solution! This is why cities around the world adjust the fluoride in their drinking water to that of the ocean. Make sure that your children's growing teeth are not deprived of fluoride benefits. Reverse osmosis home water filters take all the fluoride out of the water, activated charcoal filters leave it in. (If you are not sure about the exact fluoride level in your water, bring a sample in to the Department of Health and they will check it for you. The city water in our area is fluoridated. If you are on a well, you'll need to get the water checked. You can also buy mineral water with fluoride in it, or obtain fluoride supplements, from your dentist or pediatrician.)

Once your teeth are formed, don't forget your fluoride treatments every six months at the time of your regular cleaning appointments, which will reduce decay significantly or get prescription strength at-home fluoride solution from us. If used properly, daily for two minutes, this will help prevent most decay-provided you also quit consuming sugar.

Lastly, ask about preventive resin restorations, which if applied to the chewing surface of the back teeth prevent decay on the chewing surfaces nearly 100% of the time. In these days of modern preventive dentistry, people who get cavities must really want them-because they're hard to grow!

In conclusion, don't tell yourself or believe that your family has bad teeth. Instead, know that your family consumes so much sugar that their teeth are rotting. Do not think that just because you have your teeth fixed you can neglect them. Regular ongoing professional dental cleanings and check-ups are essential for children and adults.

The dentist can fix your tooth, but only you can change the behavior that led to the cavity in the first place: cut back on the sugary soft drinks, candy and gum, and try to eat more of what all the other animals that have perfect teeth eat.

Everything Your Mother (or Anyone Else) Never Told You About Sugar and Decay

Dental decay is still the most common disease in America. Very few people manage to avoid it. Sugar is the Number One cause. Most people do not know the real truth about sugar and decay. We printed a dozen of the most common myths about sugar for your information along with the real truth. See how many myths you actually thought were true. After you read this and make some changes in how you eat, pass this along to a friend, because this could benefit them, too.

Myth #1 - You have to eat some sugar for energy.

Fact - Not true. The body cannot turn table sugar directly into energy. The body must convert table sugar (sucrose) into glucose to burn it for energy. This is exactly what happens to all carbohydrates and fats we eat, like breads, pasta, and potatoes, as well as fruit sugar (fructose) and sugar from grains (maltose). You never need any table sugar at all. Ever!

Myth #2 - Some people just have soft teeth.

Fact - Just like the three little pigs' houses, some people's teeth are definitely stronger than others. However, even the little pig with the straw house was doing fine until the Big Bad Wolf came along. People with naturally harder teeth, like the pig living in the brick house, can take more sugar without crumbling, but people with naturally weaker teeth won't get decay either if they limit their sugar contacts.

Myth #3 - If you brush right after eating, you can brush away the sugar before it causes decay.

Fact - The germs in the plaque begin to eat the sugar as soon as it enters your mouth. By the time you start to brush, it's way to late.

Myth #4 - I have nothing to worry about because I only eat natural foods.

Fact - This is one of the biggest lies of all. "Natural" just means grown from the soil. There are other "natural substances like alcohol, tobacco, and cocaine that aren't very good for you either. The only difference between brown, or "natural" sugar and white processed sugar is the color. Sugar is sugar.

Myth #5 - I brush my teeth 5 or 6 times a day, so I don't need to floss.

Fact - Quite frequent sugar contacts cause much more decay. The truth is that the number of times per day that you eat sugar is more significant than the total amount of sugar you eat.

Follow this logic. the germs in the plaque are very small. In the first bite of a sugar food, they get all the sugar they can eat. It takes the germs about 30 minutes to digest the sugar and turn it to acid before they are ready to eat more sugar. After the first bite of sugar, they are full.

If you eat a pie in one sitting, that's one sugar contact. If you cut it up into 24 pieces and eat one per hour, it is 24 sugar contacts. It may be no less fattening, but it is twenty-four times as decay-causing as eating it in one sitting.

Myth #6 - If you avoid candy, cakes, and gooey desserts, you won't get decay.

Fact - Most of the sugar consumed in America, about 150 pounds per person per year, is not in candy and cakes. The problem is that manufacturers put sugar into all sorts of things like ketchup, white bread, spaghetti sauce, mayonnaise, and most processed foods. That Big Mac with special sauce on a bun is just as decay-producing as the ice cream shake.

Myth #7 - Adults outgrow decay, so they can eat more sugar than kids.

Fact - That is like saying that you can outgrow the damaging effects of bullets. In our office, the real truth is that the number of cavities per adult patient is much higher than the number of cavities per child patient.

Myth #8 - Fluoride is mainly for kids. It doesn't help adults.

Fact - Wrong again. Adults can get great benefit from fluorides applied to their teeth on a daily or weekly basis because fluoride hardens the outside of the tooth. If the outside is harder, decay can't start.

Myth #9 - I can eat all the sugar I want because my teeth are all filled already.

Fact - The filling doesn't seal against the tooth as well as a solid tooth that has no filling. Sugar can seep into these cracks more easily, so filled teeth are actually more likely to decay again than unfilled teeth.

Always ask the dentist if a cavity is a new one, and caused by sugar or due to a broken old filling so you can understand what your problem is.

Myth #10 - You just can't get sugar contacts down to the three a day range.

Fact - These days, with all the processed foods, it isn't easy. But now that you have some more information, you'll see how easy it really is. You just need to pick and choose.

Some Final Advice

Since sugar does cause decay, limit the number of times you eat it per day to the minimum. Be more discriminating. Read labels. If you like a totally decadent dessert, go for it. Avoid the other sugar contacts during the day that may not be that important to you, such as ketchup on a sandwich or jam on your toast.

Avoid the accidental sugar contacts. Those are times when you really don't intend to eat sugar, but it comes included in the food you buy. Start to read labels. You'll be amazed.

Do substitute fruit sugar or malt sugar for table sugar because it is much less decay-producing, pound for pound, than table sugar.

Go for dental check-ups at least twice or three times a year and have x-rays every 6 to 9 months. Modern x-rays are not at all dangerous, and they can detect decay when the cavities are still small, before major damage has occurred.

For more information on Prevention, please visit the Dental Questions page.

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