Content Reviewers:Rishi Desai, MD, MPH
Oral health is much more than just a pretty smile.
In fact, poor oral health can impact a child’s growth and development, behavior, social interactions, and even their ability to learn in the classroom.
This is because the pain from cavities can make it hard for a child to concentrate and complete a task in school, can cause a poor night’s sleep, and eventually can cause poor school attendance.
Cavities can also develop into other serious infections in their mouth and can lead to hospitalization.
Now, although cavities are the most common chronic childhood disease, the good news is that they’re completely preventable with some healthy habits.
First, let’s go over how and why cavities might form.
Each tooth is covered by a thin layer of sticky plaque.
The plaque can stick to a sugar called sucrose which is found in various foods and drinks.
The plaque also houses bacteria which use sucrose for energy, and generate an acid that can slowly destroy the surface of the teeth.
Over time, if more and more acid is released by the bacteria, the tooth can break down and a hole can appear on the surface of the tooth.
This is called a cavity.
There are several ways to prevent cavities.
First off, it’s important to minimize foods and drinks with lots of sugar like fruit juice, soft drinks, or sports drinks, as well as products that stick to the teeth like hard candy, honey, gummy vitamins, fruit leather, or dried fruits like raisins.
In fact, it’s best to replace all juice or soda in the home or classroom with water.
Next, each time a child consumes food or drink with sugar the bacteria in the dental plaque make acid for 20 to 40 minutes.