Catch cavities before they start by starting these good habits early – SiouxFalls.Business

Oct. 6, 2022

This paid piece is sponsored by Siouxland Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.

As we head into fall and then the busy holiday season, it probably is a good idea to think about sweets and cavities, or what we call dental caries. The bacterium in your mouth begins to metabolize sugars and release acid that literally dissolves the enamel of your teeth. This whole process can start within 20 minutes of consuming sugar!

If you don’t brush your teeth shortly after consuming your sugary snacks, the acid hangs around and starts the destruction process of your the enamel. If you fail to brush well, then you subsequently don’t get into the nooks and crannies between the cusps of your teeth and in between your teeth. That’s why most cavities begin in these deeper grooves on the top part of your teeth and between your teeth. So while brushing is very important, so is the act of flossing.

It also is important that we don’t forget to brush our gums and the other mucosal surfaces of our mouths — like our cheeks, our tongue and our palate. Bacteria clings to all these places and needs to be knocked off. The bacteria forms a matrix called plaque that builds up over time and acts like a protective film after it builds up enough. That process takes about 90 days, and that’s why many patients must return to their dentist every three months for cleanings to disrupt this plaque matrix. If the plaque matrix is left to persist long enough, then calcium salts in your saliva begin to get deposited in it and form what is called calculus, or tartar.

Soon, the kids are going to be running around wild, looking to score the biggest haul of candy they can and then, of course, rapidly eat it. It’s easy to get their teeth brushed for the obvious events like Halloween because there are buckets of candy everywhere to remind you. But the real damage is the day in and day out consumption of candy at school with their lunches, snacks and as rewards for for good behavior. Very few kids will brush their teeth at school, and so that’s where a lot of damage is done. Add soda pop to this mix, and you can see why many kids end up having cavities.

It is said that 25 percent of kids account for 80 percent of tooth decay. You could say that’s a pretty good statistic that 75 percent of kids don’t have a lot of cavities. However, this also means that the kids who do have cavities, may indeed have a lot of them. The idea is to get kids into the habit of brushing their teeth on a regular basis, and that usually means direct parental supervision.

For our kids, the first few times it was tough to brush the little ones’ teeth, but then it became routine. Then, with the advent of toothbrushes that resembled toys, the kids began liking the habit of brushing their teeth. Now, while it’s a bit more challenging to make brushing fun for a 7- or 8-year-old, there are electric brushes and fancier brushes that brush the whole arch of 10 teeth at a time! This seems to capture much interest! So while the ways you get kids to want to brush their teeth waxes and wanes, there is always one standard constant mentioned previously: parental supervision.

That’s the primary message for this fall. Do your kids a favor, and spend that little bit of extra time at least twice a day to get the teeth brushed and properly flossed. If they are allowed to have sugar snacks during the day, then brush them again! If we can instill these habits early in young people, they naturally become part of a very positive routine. Cutting down on dental decay directly improves all oral health, and the trips to the dentist are going to cost a lot less as well!

Please look for our future monthly articles covering a variety of dental and surgical topics.

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