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How to Prevent Cavities

Childhood cavities, also known as childhood tooth decay and childhood caries, are common in children all over the world.  There are two main causes of cavities: poor dental hygiene and sugary diets.

Cavities can be incredibly painful and often lead to tooth decay and childhood periodontitis if left untreated. Ensuring that children eat a balanced diet, embarking on a sound home oral care routine, and visiting the pediatric dentist biannually are all crucial factors for both cavity prevention and excellent oral health.

What causes cavities?

Cavities form when children’s teeth are exposed to sugary foods on a regular basis.  Sugars and carbohydrates (like the ones found in white bread) collect on and around the teeth after eating.  A sticky film (plaque) then forms on the tooth enamel.  The oral bacteria within the plaque continually ingest sugar particles and emit acid.  Initially, the acid attacks the tooth enamel, weakening it and leaving it vulnerable to tooth decay.  If conditions are allowed to worsen, the acid begins to penetrate the tooth enamel and erodes the inner workings of the tooth.

Although primary (baby) teeth are eventually lost, they fulfill several important functions and should be protected.  It is essential that children brush and floss twice per day (ideally more), and visit the dentist for biannual cleanings.  Sometimes the pediatric dentist coats teeth with a sealant and provides fluoride supplements to further bolster the mouth’s defenses.

How will I know if my child has a cavity?

Large cavities can be excruciatingly painful, whereas tiny cavities may not be felt at all.  Making matters even trickier, cavities sometimes form between the teeth, making them invisible to the naked eye.  Dental X-rays and the dentist’s trained eyes help pinpoint even the tiniest of cavities so they can be treated before they worsen.

Some of the major symptoms of cavities include:

  • Heightened sensitivity to cool or warm foods
  • Nighttime waking and crying
  • Pain
  • Sensitivity to spicy foods
  • Toothache

If a child is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to visit the pediatric dentist.  Failure to do so will make the problem worse, leave the child in pain, and possibly jeopardize a tooth that could have been treated.

How can I prevent cavities at home?

Biannual visits with the pediatric dentist are only part of the battle against cavities.  Here are some helpful guidelines for cavity prevention:

  1. Analyze the diet – Too many sugary or starchy snacks can expedite cavity formation.  Replace sugary snacks like candy with natural foods where possible, and similarly, replace soda with water.
  2. Cut the snacks – Snacking too frequently can unnecessarily expose teeth to sugars.  Save the sugar and starch for mealtimes, when the child is producing more saliva, and drinking water.  Make sure they consume enough water to cleanse the teeth.
  3. Lose the sippy cup – Sippy cups are thought to cause “baby bottle tooth decay” when they are used beyond the intended age (approximately twelve months).  The small amount of liquid emitted with each sip causes sugary liquid to continually swill around the teeth.
  4. Avoid stickiness – Sticky foods (like toffee) form plaque quickly and are extremely difficult to pry off the teeth.  Avoid them when possible.
  5. Rinse the pacifier – Oral bacteria can be transmitted from mother or father to baby.  Rinse a dirty pacifier with running water as opposed to sucking on it to avoid contaminating the baby’s mouth.
  6. Drinks at bedtime – Sending a child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup is bad news.  The milk, formula, juice, or sweetened water basically sits on the teeth all night – attacking enamel and maximizing the risk of cavities.  Ensure the child has a last drink before bedtime, and then brush the teeth.
  7. Don’t sweeten the pacifier – Parents sometimes dip pacifiers in honey to calm a cranky child.  Do not be tempted to do this.  Use a blanket, toy, or hug to calm the child instead.
  8. Brush and floss – Parents should brush and floss their child’s teeth twice each day until the child reaches the age of seven years old.  Before this time, children struggle to brush every area of the mouth effectively.
  9. Check on fluoride –When used correctly, fluoride can strengthen tooth enamel and help stave off cavities.  Too much or too little fluoride can actually harm the teeth, so ask the pediatric dentist for a fluoride assessment.
  10. Keep to appointments – The child’s first dental visit should be scheduled around his or her first birthday, as per the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) guidelines.  Keep to a regular appointment schedule to create healthy smiles!

If you have questions or concerns about cavity prevention, please contact our office.

Testimonials.

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Testimonials

If you want to know what I think of Dr. Afzali and her staff all you really need to know is that I live in Portland and I fly to San Diego to see Dr. Afzali for all my dental work. That might seem a bit extreme, and perhaps it is, but hear me out before you decide. A couple of years ago when I was living in the Bay Area I had to have one of my front teeth removed and dental implant inserted in its place by a dentist in the Bay Area. The implant looked a little shorter and darker than my other teeth, and even made my gum above it look a bit darker than the adjacent gum. In short, it didn't look natural. So I wasn't completely satisfied with how my smile looked, but I thought that was the best that could be done. It wasn't.

Last summer while I was in San Diego visiting my parents I went to Dr. Afzali for a routine cleaning. She examined my mouth and immediately asked me whether I was happy with the way my implant looked. When I said I wasn't, she explained that she could make it look better and possibly even indistinguishable from my other teeth. She was right. My implant looks just like my other teeth, and my gum is pink again. In fact, my new implant looks so natural that I sometimes forget it's an implant. I couldn't be happier. One final point. Dr. Afazli's entire staff is great. When I walk in they all make me feel like I'm the most important patient they have. And Julie is particularly great. Because I live in Portland my visits to Dr. Afzali's office had to me perfectly timed with receipt of the various parts necessary for my procedures. Julie made sure that everything arrived when necessary, without fail, so that no flights or appointments had to be rescheduled.

Riley P.

Recently, while on a trip from Canada to visit friends in San Diego, I broke a tooth. I phoned RB Dentistry and was given an appointment without delay. Dr. Mary Afzali was reassuring and professional and did an excellent job fixing the broken tooth. Her dental assistant, Marinette, was kind and gentle and made me feel comfortable throughout the procedure. Julie at Reception was welcoming, warm and made me laugh with her wonderful sense of humour and handled the insurance processing with no complications. Thank you so much Dr. Afzali, Mari and Julie for one of the most pleasant dental appointments I've had in a long time! Hope to see you in Vancouver, B.C. sometime!

Pam C.

I know I am in good hands with Dr. Afzali at RB Family Dentistry. The cavity fillings and tooth root fillings I got there were done so well that when I went to the Southwest College Dental Hygenist school to help out a friend, they could barely even detect the fillings! The teachers there were very impressed. At RB Family Dentistry, the staff and hygenists are friendly, organized and very knowledgable, and the Dr. always gives me as much time as I need and answers all of my questions. The office is beautiful and state-of-the-art. They never try to sell me on additional products or services that I don't need.

Scripps Ranch M

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16776 Bernardo Center Dr. #105 San Diego, CA 92128
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