Avoiding Tooth Decay for Children and Adults - Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics

Avoiding Tooth Decay for Children and Adults

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tooth decay

When it comes to dentistry, one of our main goals is to help our patients avoid tooth decay as much as possible. Tooth decay is one of the most prevalent chronic disease in both children and adults even though it is 100% preventable with proper care. Tooth decay is caused by acidic plaque that stays on the teeth and erodes tooth enamel. Plaque forms from sugars in the foods you eat that mix with bacteria in the mouth. How well you clean your teeth and protect them from plaque is an indication of how healthy your mouth is. The best way to avoid cavities is to follow proper oral hygiene habits. Both parents and their children can benefit from information about tooth decay and how to avoid it. Learn more today about how you can protect you and your child’s mouths!


What Is Tooth Decay?

You may be more familiar with other terms that describe tooth decay: dental caries and cavities. All of these are the same thing. The American Dental Association tells us that tooth decay is the destruction of your tooth enamel. The enamel is the hard, outer coating of the teeth. It’s very strong and can hold up under the pressure of chewing, biting and more. However, that hard surface can be eroded over time by plaque. Plaque is the sticky, acidic substance that is made when bacteria in the mouth mixes with sugars in the foods you eat. Plaque likes to sit on the teeth and coat their surfaces. If that plaque is not cleaned off with proper brushing and flossing, it can eat away enough enamel to seep inside your tooth.


Inside the tooth is a soft, pulpy center that houses the nerves and blood vessels of the tooth. If plaque gets inside, it will eat away your tooth, which leads to tooth decay, or cavities. Brushing and flossing often will help reduce your risk for tooth decay or eliminate it entirely. However, we have many treatments to combat tooth decay and stop it if it is present. Cavities can happen easily in baby teeth, so it’s very important to help children to brush and floss the teeth often as well as yourself.


What Is the Big Deal?

No matter your age, tooth decay is always something that can happen. In fact, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research tells us that dental caries is the “most prevalent chronic disease in both children and adults.” You may have never considered tooth decay to be a chronic disease, but it really is. It is literally decay that happens inside the mouth, and in severe cases it can necessitate lengthy procedures. It can also make your overall health worse. The mouth is a doorway to the rest of the body. If infections and illnesses are present, it can affect total-body wellness.


Some Statistics

If cavities are so prevalent, then how does the nation look as a whole? The statistics might shock you:

  • In children younger than 11, 42% had cavities in their primary teeth and 21% in their permanent teeth. 23% had untreated cavities. Children in this age group have an average of 1-3 areas of tooth decay.
  • In adolescents, 59% had dental caries in their permanent teeth and about 20% on average have untreated cavities. On average, half of these had missing permanent teeth.
  • In adults over 18 years of age, 92% have cavities in their permanent teeth that have been treated. However, 26% have cavities that have not been treated. On average, adults have around 3 decayed or missing permanent teeth.
  • Dental caries gets worse as adults age. 93% of seniors over the age of 65 have cavities in their permanent teeth. 18% have untreated tooth decay. When it comes to missing teeth, senior citizens have an average of 9-10 missing permanent teeth.


Helping Your Child

For adults, it’s a lot easier to avoid tooth decay even though the presence of dental caries increases as you age. This only stems from improper oral hygiene habits. Adults have the fine motor skills to brush and floss the teeth properly to avoid dental problems. However, for several years, parents are the ones that need to help their little ones to brush their teeth and establish good oral hygiene practices. Brushing and flossing take time to learn, and children have to develop those fine motor skills to do both and to do them right. Consistent practice every single day morning and night can help your child become independent with taking care of their teeth.


There are many special toothbrushes on the market today that help your child hold a toothbrush correctly. You should choose a brush with soft bristles for young children to use. You should also help them use the right amount of toothpaste to brush with (about a pea size) and help your child learn how much to use and to not swallow it. With a little bit of practice, your child will be a pro at taking care of their dental health in no time!


Keeping Your Mouth Healthy

When it comes to tooth decay and most other oral health problems, many issues can be avoided by brushing the teeth several times a day, flossing each day, and seeing a dentist regularly. You only have one set of permanent teeth, so you want to keep them healthy. Although children will eventually have their baby teeth fall out, it’s very important to keep those teeth healthy because they will have them for several years. If it has been some time since your last cleaning and exam, we can see you and help you know how your oral health is. Simply call our Hardy Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics office today at (720) 887-6003!