Childhood Dental Cavities

Studies show that dental decay in the preschool population is on the rise and this is usually a predictor of future cavities experienced in adult population.

What is the reason for dental decay?

There are three things that combine to result in decay: the tooth, cariogenic bacteria (decay causing bacteria), and fermentable carbohydrates. If the exposure to decay causing bacteria is greater than that of protective factors such as antibacterial properties of saliva, fluoride, we have demineralization which leads to decay.

In order to answer why a particular child presents with cavities, an examination that includes risk assessment is performed by the dentist.

Let us look at the three things which have to be there for a cavity start;

Studies have shown that the most common source of transmission of cariogenic bacteria is from the care giver, most often the mother, to the child.

Any fermentable carbohydrate is food for cariogenic bacteria. In addition to the type of carbohydrate, duration of the exposure, frequency of consumption and timing of consumption are important factors. For example children that use “sippy cups” throughout the day expose their teeth frequently for a long time of period to acidic carbohydrates.

It is important to remember that at young ages in the primary dentition caries progresses very rapidly.

Prevention lies in having regular dental checkups, city water fluoridation, dental office fluoride treatment and sealants which physically obstruct the entrance of bacteria in the pits and fissures of chewing surfaces of teeth.