Dr. Rob Mirabelli, Dr. Jen Mirabelli & Dr. Stefanie Hourani
Tooth Decay Prevention
Tooth decay is a progressive disease resulting from the interaction of bacteria that naturally occur on the teeth and sugars in the everyday diet. Sugar causes the bacteria to produce acids that break down the minerals in teeth, forming a cavity. Dentists remove the soft, decayed tooth structure and fill the void to restore the tooth to a healthy state. Avoiding tooth decay simply requires adherence to a dental hygiene regimen: brushing and flossing twice a day, regular dental checkups, diet control and fluoride treatment.
The grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth are very deep and difficult to clean of bacteria and food. Even though your children may be brushing regularly, their toothbrush bristles may not reach to the depths of the crevices of these back teeth. As a result, the remaining bacteria and food interact, acids are produced, and a cavity is formed. Recent studies have shown that 88 percent of cavities in American school children are caused this way.
Tooth sealants protect these susceptible grooves by sealing them off and preventing bacteria and food from residing there. Sealants are typically composed of a resin material that can last for several years, but can chip off if children are frequent ice-chewers. Consequently, sealants need to be checked during regular appointments.
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 are much more resistant to cavities once they erupt. The most common way people ingest fluoride is through community tap water. Most (but not all) communities have water that is very carefully regulated to ensure that there is the appropriate fluoride concentration. However, well water, filtered tap water, and bottled water can have varying amounts of fluoride. To find out what's best for your family, consult with your dentist. Your dentist 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.
The tap water at our address is provided by the Phoenix Municipal Water Service and is fluoridated to the appropriate concentration of 0.70mg/L. If your tap water does not come from this source, you can research the fluoride content in your community through the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. This information can be found here.
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 between the ages of 2 and 4 years. Prolonged or aggressive thumb sucking that persists can cause improper growth of the jaws and misalignment of the teeth. Your dentist can provide you with some suggestions on how to encourage your children to eliminate the habit. Some simple suggestions include:
- First try a positive approach. Instead of scolding, begin by praising children when they don't thumb suck.
- Buy a calendar and some fun stickers. Place a sticker on the calendar for each day that your child remembers to not suck their thumb
- Focus on eliminating potential causes of anxiety. Thumb sucking is a comfort device that helps children cope with stress.
- Place a bandage on the thumb or a sock on their hand at night as a reminder not to suck their thumb.
- Buy a long sleeve shirt 1 size larger than your child needs and sew the sleeves shut. Put the shirt on during the times your child is most likely to reach for their thumb.
Ultimately, if simple home strategies prove unsuccessful and your child's permanent teeth are being affected by the thumb habit, your dentist can fabricate dental appliances that help to eliminate the habit. Your dentist can show you examples these appliances and help you decide if they are right for your child.