Posts for: January, 2014
For some kids, having a cavity or two is just part of growing up. Not for Giuliana Rancic. When she was a child, the TV personality didn't have a single cavity — and she still doesn't. But for her husband Bill, co-star of the Style Network reality show Giuliana and Bill, it was a different story. A cavity-prone kid, he was never certain what a visit to the dentist might hold in store. “I can still remember the anticipation,” he recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “I always hoped I would get out of the checkups without a cavity!”
Why do some people get more cavities than others? There are a number of factors at work, but to understand it better, let's look at how tooth decay occurs.
How Cavities Form
Cavities — also called dental caries — are small pits or holes in the teeth that are caused by tooth decay. Tooth decay itself is a chronic disease that can flare up when plaque isn't kept under control. A thin, bacteria-laden film, plaque sticks to tooth surfaces both above and below the gum line, and can build up in the absence of effective oral hygiene.
Of course, everyone has bacteria in their mouth, both “good” and “bad” (pathogenic) types. But when the bad guys outnumber the good, trouble can start. When you consume sweets, plaque bacteria process the sugars and release acid as a byproduct. The acid eats into tooth surfaces, causing decay — and cavities that need filling. Left untreated, decay can work its way into the tooth's pulp, resulting in infection and pain. Eventually, treatment might involve a root canal — or, in the worst case, extraction.
What can you do if you seem to be prone to cavities? One effective way to fight tooth decay is by maintaining good oral hygiene. Brush at least twice daily, for at least two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled brush and a dab of fluoride toothpaste to clean all around your teeth. Most importantly, floss above and below the gum line, every day. And just as important, don't forget to have regular dental checkups every six months.
A Healthy Balance
Another cavity-fighting strategy is eating a balanced diet. Avoid soda, sugary “energy” drinks and sweet treats — but if you choose to consume sugar, have it with meals instead of between meals. This will give your saliva, which has natural cavity-fighting properties, a chance to work.
“It's all about maintaining a healthy balance,” Giuliana told Dear Doctor. And Bill agrees: “I love nuts and fruit for a healthy snack,” he said, adding that he's meticulous about brushing and flossing. And when the couple smiles, you can see how those healthy habits pay off.
If you would like more information on preventing tooth decay, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay” and “Tooth Decay – How To Assess Your Risk.”
Dentists have been saying for years that it helps to see children as early as possible — ideally, around the time they reach one year old. Just recently, an evidence-based study was released that backs this up: It shows that starting dental visits prior to age one actually reduces the cost of oral health care, and helps ensure that kids have pleasant dental experiences in the future.
Why do young children need to go to the dentist if they only have one or two teeth (and they’re baby teeth, to boot)? For one thing, those early dental visits get a child used to the new sights and sounds of the office: the big chair, the shiny equipment, and the friendly staff who will be taking care of them. And even at this tender age, it’s not too soon to check for signs of decay, make sure gums are healthy, and show everyone the best techniques for keeping up good oral hygiene in a growing mouth.
Still, it’s natural for a child to be a little nervous before an office visit. (Even grown-ups have been known to show some anxiety at the dental office from time to time.) To ease their way through, there are several techniques you can borrow from behavioral psychology to help make the experience as stress-free as possible.
First… just relax. Remember that kids quickly pick up on non-verbal cues that tell them something’s wrong — so try and stay positive, and keep smiling. You should prepare the little ones for what’s coming — but not too much information, please! We go to great efforts to make children feel safe and comfortable in our care, and we can tell them all they need to know in age-appropriate terms. In fact, most of your child’s first dental visit may consist of a show-and-tell about what we do and what tools we use.
Another thing to keep in mind is that parents are the major role models for their children, both in and out of the home. Kids naturally follow along — in both good and bad ways. If parents take good care of their own teeth, it helps kids develop good oral hygiene habits too. That includes brushing and flossing regularly, limiting sugary snacks between meals, and avoiding non-nutritious drinks — not only sodas, but also so-called “sports” and “energy” drinks, which can be extremely high in sugar and caffeine.
Of course, regular visits to the dentist should also be a part of every adult’s oral hygiene program. If your child sees you relaxing in the chair, it’s much easier for them to do it too. And that’s good for everybody’s health.
If you would like more information about children’s dental visits, please call our office to schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Taking the Stress Out of Dentistry for Kids.”