What Are Dental Cavities and How Can They Be Prevented?
Learning to eat healthy and maintain proper hygiene from a young age is key in preventing many infections and serious complications related to dental cavities.
Dental problems are a common health issue. They affect children and adults alike, and they can be quite serious. They’re painful, are a source of infection, and can even destroy teeth altogether. Today we’ll talk more in detail about what dental cavities are and what you can do to prevent them in children.
What are dental cavities and what produces them?
Dental cavities are infections in the teeth caused by microorganisms of the habitual bacterial flora in our mouths. This includes, among others, Streptococcus mutans. The bacteria that are able to produce cavities are known as cariogenic bacteria.
These bacteria use the sugar present in our mouths to produce acids. In turn, these acids wear down the enamel on our teeth and, little by little, destroy the deepest layers or our teeth. This process – called demineralization – is the origin of dental cavities.
However, our bodies also have their own defense mechanisms. Saliva, for example, has several purposes. One purpose is remineralizing the enamel on our teeth and preventing the appearance of cavities. The same is true for fluoride, which is present on the surface of our teeth.
Initially, cavities appear as white, shine-less stains on teeth. With time, these spots become darker and small holes start to form. These holes get deeper and deeper, thus destroying the affected tooth.
In the initial stages, cavities usually don’t present any symptoms at all. However, in time, they cause pain, are a source of infection and destroy teeth altogether –even neighboring teeth. Therefore, treating cavities as soon as possible is a fundamental part of avoiding more serious complications.
The most frequent location of cavities is in molars, as these teeth have a more irregular surface. However, dental cavities can appear on any tooth. Baby bottle cavities are a particular type of cavities that affect the upper incisor teeth.
How to prevent dental cavities?
To prevent dental cavities, it’s important to take action on several levels:
- Healthy eating:
- As much as possible, reduce the intake of sugary foods as well as sugary drinks and sticky foods that remain stuck on teeth.
- Ingesting sugar between meals is even more dangerous when it comes to cavities. This is because more time tends to go by before we brush our teeth and get rid of the sugar.
- Make sure babies don’t fall asleep with their bottle or your breast in their mouth for a long time. If the sugar in milk remains in contact with teeth for a long period of time, this can also lead to dental cavities.
- It’s important for children to practice proper dental hygiene from a young age. This mean brushing teeth at least two times a day. As for small children, this requires the supervision and/or assistance of an adult.
- Fluoride helps to strengthen teeth and prevent cavities. This element is present in some toothpastes, mouthwashes and also tap water.
- It’s also important for mothers to take care of their own dental hygiene during pregnancy. At the same time, avoid putting your baby’s pacifier in your mouth, licking his or her spoon, and blowing on his or her food. These habits may seem innocent, but all we do is pass our bacteria onto our little ones.
- Visiting the dentist:
- Frequent visits to the dentist from a young age also help to prevent the formation of cavities. If a cavity does appear, frequent dentist visits also help to treat them early on. In this way, we can avoid the spread of infection and major tooth damage.
As we’ve already mentioned, dental cavities are a frequent health problem that affects the general population from childhood on. We should never forget to examine our own mouths frequently, as well as those of our children.
Cavities can appear for a number of reasons, and there are some factors that we can’t avoid. However, healthy eating habits and proper dental hygiene from an early age make a big difference. Both aid in the prevention of infection and serious complications.