Tooth decay is a preventable disease resulting from the interaction of bacteria that naturally occur in the mouth and sugars in the diet. Sugars (carbohydrates) cause the bacteria to produce acids that break down the minerals in teeth, forming a cavity. Avoiding tooth decay requires brushing and flossing twice a day, regular dental checkups, diet control, and fluoride treatments. Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Many snack foods that children eat contain high percentages of carbohydrates, thus, the more frequently a child snacks, the greater their risk of tooth decay.
The grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth are very deep and difficult to clean thoroughly. Even though your children may be brushing regularly, their toothbrush bristles may not reach to the depths of the crevices of these back teeth. A sealant is a clear resin material that is applied to these chewing surfaces of the back teeth. The sealant acts as a barrier to food, plaque, and acid to help protect these areas of the teeth.
Fluoride is a mineral that helps teeth become stronger and more resistant to decay. Regularly drinking water containing the appropriate amount of fluoride can lower your risk for getting cavities. For children who have permanent teeth developing below the gums, systemic fluoride is particularly important, because tooth enamel forming in the presence of the right amount of dietary fluoride is much more resistant to cavities once these teeth erupt. The most common way people ingest fluoride is through community tap water. It is important to know that not all of the water in the Portland Metro area is fluoridated. To find out what’s best for your family, consult with Dr. Nelson. He can provide you with information about the best ways to make sure your children are getting just the right amount of fluoride in their diet. Topical fluoride applied twice a year has a beneficial effect on the outer tooth surface once the tooth has fully formed. In addition to strengthening the tooth structure, topical fluoride also helps control bacterial levels that can lead to tooth decay. Administration of topical fluoride at regular dental visits ensures a controlled environment for fluoride application.
Sucking is a natural reflex that relaxes and comforts babies and toddlers and some children are much more committed to the habit than others. Typically, dentists prefer that children stop sucking their thumb or finger between the ages of 2 and 4 years. Prolonged, or aggressive thumb or finger sucking can cause improper growth of the jaws and misalignment of the teeth. A pacifier is not a substitute for a finger or thumb habit, and can affect the teeth essentially the same way as the finger or thumb. If you have questions about your child’s habit, be sure to notify Dr. Nelson so that he can provide you with some suggestions on how to encourage your child to eliminate the habit.
If simple home strategies prove unsuccessful and your child’s permanent teeth are being affected by the thumb habit, Dr. Nelson or Dr. Miller can fabricate dental appliances that help to eliminate the habit. We can show you examples these appliances and help you decide if they are right for your child.