Dr J Interview

Dr J Interview

What causes cavities in children?

Cavities occur when there is an imbalance in the natural host defenses against tooth decay. Saliva contains natural defenses and immunity factors such as micro amounts of fluoride, and dissolved tooth minerals such as calcium and phosphorous. In the healthy state, saliva keeps a balance of minerals in the tooth by replacing them whenever and wherever they are lost. When present, small amounts of fluoride facilitate the work of the saliva in maintaining the strong outer enamel tooth surface.

Almost every time the child eats, an acid condition forms around their teeth. Carbohydrates which are present in just about every meal and snack are turned into simple sugars by enzymes in the saliva so that the food digests, dissolves, and can easily be cleared from the mouth.

Healthy, natural bacteria which are always present in a thin film on everyone’s teeth use these sugars for their own metabolism and survival. A waste product of that metabolism is acid, which upsets the ongoing balance of mineral transfer between the saliva and the tooth enamel. Too-frequent snacking (the Achilles heel of modern children) or eating large amounts of carbohydrates is the major cause of tooth decay. When this occurs, the natural protector, saliva, is not able to keep up with the continuous mineral losses caused by the bacterial acids formed each and every time your child (and you and me) eats.

Most parents we talk with fail to realize that frequency of eating is a more important factor in cavity formation than what their child eats. It’s hard for parents to realize and understand that the bacteria in the mouth only need a tiny bit of dissolved carbohydrate/sugar to make maximum amounts of acid. This is sometimes difficult to understand that there are no good or bad foods for the teeth. A soda, candy bar, cookie, piece of bread or a piece of fruit all contain enough carbohydrate/sugar to enable the natural bacteria to form acids on tooth surfaces.

Today the children that get cavities are those that eat or snack frequently, including snacking on “organic foods” or foods that parents don’t believe are harmful, like Cheez-Its, pretzels, goldfish, etc. Other examples include the baby that uses a bottle or the breast as a pacifier, or the teenager that sucks on candy or sips a flavored beverage throughout the day. All of these foods are carbohydrates, including milk and human milk, and have the potential to overwhelm the saliva if done repeatedly day-in and day-out.

How can a parent help their child not get cavities?

Very easily. Cut down on snacks. Get a little fluoride on the teeth by brushing twice a day with an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste. Visit a pediatric dentist that can articulate this science, not the science fiction that fluoride is poison or that only candy causes tooth decay. Often the first step in understanding disease is to be educated to the science of the disease, first and foremost. At Dr. J, we believe in educating parents and children so they can prevent their own problems in the first place.

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