Tooth Decay in Children
Don’t Let Your Kid’s Teeth Erode out of Kindness!
From the day the first tooth came in, you’ve been diligent about your child’s dental care. Regular visits to your family dentist for check-ups, daily brushing and flossing, and a healthy diet are all part of your routine. Why, you’ve even cut down on sugary soft drinks and replaced them with healthful fruit juices … oh, wait!
While it’s great that you’re paying attention to the nutritional value of the foods you give to your child, it’s also good to keep in mind that every rose has a thorn. There are trade-offs to be made when considering food and drink for optimal health – which includes the condition of your child’s teeth. Not well-known among parents is the fact that fruit juices contain acids – the same culprits found in soft drinks – that can contribute to a special form of tooth decay known as dental erosion.
Tooth decay is the direct wearing-away or dissolving of tooth enamel that results from being exposed to acid-containing beverages and other foods. In extreme cases of dental erosion, the teeth can be virtually worn down to stumps. Unlike ordinary tooth decay in which bacteria in the mouth produce acids that cause cavities (also known as ‘caries’), the dental erosion we’re discussing here is a direct effect from what we choose to eat and drink. It’s as if, by downing acid-containing drinks, we’ve by-passed the middlemen – the bacteria – and gone directly into the business of wrecking our teeth ourselves!
Health experts are increasingly concerned about the rise in tooth decay among children and teens. It’s been reported that kids as young as four have needed to get their teeth capped because of this enamel loss. It seems that youngsters are even more vulnerable to dental erosion because a) they have less exposure to fluoride, which acts to protect the teeth and b) they do tend to drink a lot of sodas and juice drinks. An estimated one out every 8 teenagers in the UK drinks 22 cans of soda per week! Guess who’s at the greatest risk for dental erosion?
The Worst Offenders
Adding insult to injury, the often-recommended practice of brushing teeth right after meals can make dental erosion worse. That’s because the acid in your drink goes to work immediately. Try sucking on a lemon or sipping a can of cola, then run your tongue over the inside of your teeth. See how ‘sludgy’ it feels? That’s the tooth enamel that’s been softened by the acid in your drink. Notice, too, how quickly it works. Because of this fast-acting nature of the food acids, dentists now recommend that you wait 30 minutes after consuming such foods before brushing your teeth. This gives your saliva a chance to neutralize the acid and reverse the softening.
Now, we’re not saying that all fruit juice is bad! Fruit contains many vitamins and minerals that are essential to good health, so it’s important to include fruit and, yes, fruit juice in your family’s healthy diet. Just be aware that orange juice and other citrus varieties contain citric acid, one of the leading culprits in dental erosion. In fact, it’s the citric acid along with phosphoric acid – not carbonation – in soft drinks that adds soda to the rogue’s gallery of causes for tooth erosion. More pertinent to adults, wine has been implicated in dental erosion since wine’s acidity is comparable to that of orange juice.
You don’t have to toss that newly-purchased container of O.J., however. Understand that it’s the frequency, not the amount, of juice that can make or break a pattern of dental erosion in your kids’ and your teeth. Try applying these common-sense guidelines: Serve fruit juice with meals, not in between. Serve fruit juice diluted with water to reduce the acid content. And don’t get into the habit of using fruit juice in a bottle as ‘comforter’ for a baby or young child. Little ones who spend time sucking on a juice bottle or a sippy cup of juice may fall into as great a risk for dental erosion as those soda-guzzling teens!
What to Look For – Signs of Eroded Teeth
Some early signs of dental erosion can be easy to spot – if you pay attention. How do your teeth feel when exposed to heat (such as drinking hot coffee or tea), cold (drinking iced beverages) or sweets? If you experience pain or sensitivity with these food choices, it may indicate that the tooth enamel has been worn away, exposing the sensitive inner part of the tooth (called ‘dentine’) to the irritant.
When considering your child’s teeth, pay attention to color changes. There are two to look for: translucence and yellowing. The cutting edge of the central teeth (called ‘incisors’) can become translucent with erosion and wear. The yellow color can be seen anywhere that the white enamel has worn thin enough that the yellowish dentin shows through. If you become concerned about erosion on your child’s teeth, or your own, see your dentist for a thorough exam. If erosion is detected, consider developing a treatment plan to address it.
The Best Cure is Prevention
As we discussed above, simple changes in the way you serve fruit juices to your family can go a long way to reduced the risk for tooth erosion. Here are some other ways to add more protection through prevention:
- Drink milk or plain water – nature’s natural substances that are good for your teeth! Milk and other high-calcium foods help strengthen your teeth by restoring the mineral content.
- Brush gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Reducing the abrasive forces your teeth are subjected to goes a long way towards keeping them intact.
- If you (or Junior) absolutely must have fruit juice, sport drinks, or sodas, try drinking these beverages through a straw. That directs the liquid away from the teeth and reduces your exposure. Also, try rinsing your mouth with plain water after drinking to reduce the acid content. Then wait 30 minutes before brushing.
By following the simple steps outlined here, and seeing your dentist for regular check-ups. you can help your family avoid making an unpleasant acquaintance with tooth erosion!
Tooth Erosion in Children is a Very Real Cause for Concern
Those pearly whites that often bring a photograph to life, needs special care and attention to remain in pristine condition. However, amidst helping with homework, fixing meals and shopping, it’s tough to remember about your child’s dental care requirements!
Most people confuse tooth erosion with tooth decay, which is the progressive loss of tooth enamel as a result of a plaque acid attack. On the other hand, tooth erosion is caused by a direct acid attack by excessive exposure to fizzy drinks and fruit juice. A recent study revealed that more than 93% of parents didn’t think their children could have eroded teeth and those who did, thought that this dental health problem could be reversed. Unfortunately, it can’t. Once your child loses tooth enamel, it’s gone for good!
So what really causes tooth erosion? There are both extrinsic as well as intrinsic sources from which acid originates. Intrinsic sources such as acid reflux or vomiting starts from the stomach and lets the acid rise up into the mouth. Extrinsic sources are acid rich food and drinks such as fruit juice and soft drinks.
Preventative steps that can help
When it comes to oral health, it’s crucial to identify the problem before it gets out of hand. When tooth erosion is spotted in the early stages, you can limit the damage caused. Take your child to the dentist regularly, so they can evaluate whether the erosion is getting worse.
Always remember that milk and water are the safest drinks for your children. Yes, we know they’ll want anything but milk and water! Natural fruit juice contains fruit acids which cause tooth erosion and wear. Once acid is present in the mouth it will eat away at the enamel, so remember to dilute drinks with water to minimase the damage. Most kids like to sip their drinks over a long period of time but this will be harmful to their teeth as it prolongs the acid attack. If they finish up quickly, the teeth are not in contact with the acidic or sugar substance for too long. Don’t leave a baby with a sugary drink in a feeder or bottle for too long nor should your baby go to sleep drinking from a bottle. Allow your child to drink only water after their bedtime brushing ritual. Further, when buying medicines, ask your pharmacist for sugar free liquid medicine formulas.
Tell-tale signs of tooth erosion
While we try and protect our kids from several dangers, we often ignore trouble that could be brewing within their own bodies. In most cases, dental erosion affects the upper front teeth. If your child’s teeth appear short, glassy and have uneven tips, then it’s time to do something about it. Your child may also complain of sensitive teeth especially when drinking cold or hot beverages. Further, the teeth may appear slightly yellow as the dentine beneath the enamel is darker in colour.
If you suspect that your child has or is heading towards tooth erosion, your safest bet would be to contact our team at Bite Dental Studios. We offer state-of-art dental care solutions in a safe hygienic and friendly environment so your child can continue to dazzle the world with that remarkable smile!