Early childhood and adolescent dental caries are among the most common diseases in the United States.
A disease process called caries causes cavities secondary to many factors:
- Increase in consumption of sugary beverages and between-meal snacking
- Transmission of bacteria: we all have the same bacterial flora, but if Streptococcus mutans is a high percentage of that bacteria, it spells trouble
- Home care brushing and especially flossing are extremely important
- The pH of the saliva after the consumption of sugar is low (acidic); neutralization by saliva is crucial
- Spacing between the teeth
- Fluoride content and strength of enamel
- Saliva may be changed by medications, especially its quantity and fluidity
- Presence of orthodontic appliances
Dentists, parents, and adolescents will have varied opinions on managing dental caries. Also, every child is affected by the caries process differently. Some children can have sugar all day long and never get a cavity; others are prone to cavities. The factors listed above all affect this. It would help if you expressed your concerns and wishes. Depending on the size of the cavity, treatment can include either an aggressive preventative protocol or restoring the cavity with a filling.
The preventative protocol applies if the cavities are tiny, and at Madison Pediatric Dental & Orthodontics, we have set up a program to facilitate this. You and your child will receive education on how cavities form and how to prevent them at home. Current research shows that even if small cavities have formed, they can stop growing and even be remineralized with an aggressive preventative plan. Prevention can be accomplished with a combination of improved oral hygiene, diet modification, and the use of prescription rinses and toothpaste. Note that prescription products are often stronger than over-the-counter ones and should not be swallowed.
If your child needs a filling, its average lifespan is only 8-10 years, and even less for primary teeth. A filling is never as strong as the original tooth structure and can develop a cavity around it. A preventative protocol must be set up to help maintain fillings that are placed and prevent more cavities from developing.
Close monitoring of cavities and fillings is crucial, and Madison Pediatric Dental & Orthodontics is committed to maintaining the best technology. Sequential X-rays and new caries-detecting laser instruments have aided in the diagnosis of caries, as well as their growth rate and extent. This will be shown to you on X-rays and photos. We have kits that we can use to test the concentration of cavity-causing bacteria, as well as the level of acidity of saliva. These tools will be used to develop a preventative plan that best suits your child.