By Dr Reshma Shah
With changing food habits and lifestyle patterns, toothaches, tooth cavities and decay of teeth are on a rise. At a very young age, children are complaining of toothaches, which could often be because of excessive sweet intake or even junk food.
Tooth decay is largely preventable, even though it remains one of the most common diseases of childhood — five times as common as asthma. As per research, 42 per cent of children between two and 11 years have had cavities in baby teeth while 21 per cent of those between six to 11 years have had cavities in permanent teeth.
What are the common causes of cavities or decay?
Whenever we eat or drink something that contains sugar or starch, the bacteria uses them to produce acids. These acids begin to eat away at the tooth’s hard outer surface (enamel). When a tooth is exposed to such acid frequently, the repeated cycles of acid attacks cause the enamel to lose minerals. A white spot may appear where minerals have been lost. This is a sign of early decay.
Can cavities be hereditary?
Studies prove that moms (rather than dads) typically infect their children before age. However, it happens when you transfer your saliva into your child’s mouth. For instance, repeatedly eating from the same spoon as your baby or letting your toddler brush his teeth with your toothbrush. And if you’ve frequently had cavities yourself, you’re particularly likely to pass the germs along. It’s an old wives’ tale that ‘soft teeth’ run in families, but what’s really passed along in families are high levels of decay-causing bacteria.
Oral hygiene is a must!
Limit your child’s between-meal snacks and if need be, provide healthier options. This reduces the number of acid attacks on teeth and gives teeth a chance to repair themselves. Make sure your child doesn’t eat or drink anything with sugar in it after bedtime tooth brushing. Saliva flow decreases during sleep. Without enough saliva, the teeth’s ability to repair themselves reduces. Adequate dietary calcium, phosphorous, vitamins A, D, and C help in healthy and strong enamel formation.
It’s better to avoid any sugary candies and sweets. Whenever you eat sweets in any meal or snack, brush your teeth well with fluoride toothpaste afterward.
(The writer is a paediatric dentist at 32 Reasons.)