Cavities – Sweat The Small Stuff (Part 3 of 6)


Plaque bacteria starving
This is Part 3 of a 6 Part series. The info will be best understood if read in order. Click here for Part 1

After our previous chat about wiping out bacterial colonies every day, today we’re going to talk about starving them out. REAL MOMS have to be great home wreckers for those plaque bacteria constantly trying to set up camp in your kid’s mouth.

Pits and grooves in the teeth are like microscopic “hotels for bacteria.” Brushing and flossing has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with protecting your child’s teeth from cavities.

So we’ve got to come up with a better strategy here: Starvation
(not your kid … the plaque)!

Cavities form in pits and grooves

A reminder from an earlier discussion, in general, cavities happen where

  1. Plaque bacterial colonies are allowed to remain undisturbed for at least 7 days.
  2. There are simple carbohydrates in the diet that feed the bacteria. The byproduct of this is ACID which is what eats holes in the tooth (actually it dissolves the mineral part of teeth)

So we wipe out the colonies with brushing and flossing wherever we can reach. But since plaque is microscopic, we STARVE OUT the colonies in the pits and grooves by minimizing our kid’s exposure to simple carbs. Especially sugar.

Sugar: that evil, horrid, nasty stuff that seems to be in most of our processed foods, is NOT the only simple carb that can cause cavities.

For the IDEAL MOM, the solution is to feed your children nothing but whole foods. Nothing prepackaged. Nothing simple to pack for their time away from home. Just fresh fruits and veggies and the like.

For the REAL MOM, that’s not likely to happen all the time, in spite of best efforts. So here’s a great tip.

Plaque bacteria produce acid for around 30 minutes, give or take, AFTER your child has taken in their last bite or drink of simple carbs. After that, the mineral part of the tooth that the acid dissolved is slowly REmineralized from the saliva.

Do you realize how HUGE it is to know that?

Since we can’t brush or floss out those little bugs in the pits and grooves of teeth, we just minimize the damage they’ll cause. We do this by minimizing the FREQUENCY that we allow our children’s teeth to have simple carbs flow over them (juice, soda, candy, ripe bananas, dates, etc.)

So the tip for the day is that it’s the FREQUENCY of putting simple carbs in your kid’s mouth that matters more than the AMOUNT. The longer you wait BETWEEN putting even a single nibble or sip of simple carbs into your child’s mouth, the better the teeth can recover, or REmineralize. This is true for your 2-year-old or your 18-year-old.

  1. There will be plaque acid production after every meal, so if you’re going to give them a sweet dessert, give it right after the meal.
  2. Don’t give sweet snacks and juices between meals. Figure out something else without simple carbs.
  3. If they’re going to have chocolate or some other sweet, one bite can cause as much damage as twenty. So if you’re going to give sweets, let them BINGE and get it over with. About 30 minutes after that binge, the teeth will start to recover.

Acid dissolves mineral such as the mineral in teethHere’s how to think about it in a way that might save your child’s teeth. Every time you give your child food or drink with simple carbs in it, imagine you’re pouring acid (go ahead – imagine it) onto all the areas where plaque has sat for more than 7 days. This includes pits, grooves, between the teeth if you don’t floss every day, or anywhere on the tooth if you stink at brushing in general.

Every time you do that, the acid dissolves away the mineral for the time that they’re eating/drinking PLUS about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, it takes longer than 30 minutes for the teeth to remineralize. We’re not supposed to have food in our mouth much of the day.

The mineral in your teeth can be thought of as a bank account. If you remove more than you put back, you’ll eventually be overdrawn. Welcome to the world of cavity banking.

One more thing. Teeth seem to “mature” over time. A gummy bear that you as a REAL MOM could eat without significant damage often causes many more problems for young teeth. It’s not whether the teeth are baby teeth or permanent teeth that seems to matter. It matters how long those teeth have been in the mouth. That means 35-year-old teeth are far more resistant to decay than their teenager’s teeth.

If you can get your child’s teeth into adulthood with minimal cavities or fillings, you’ve almost set them up for the bulk of their life without these kinds of dental problems. What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

You might have heard that for pits and grooves of teeth we simply place SEALANTS to starve out the bacteria trapped inside. I wish that worked as well in practice as it’s touted in theory. I’m not a total fan of sealants, in spite of several Dental Associations around the world say. I’ll explain why in another rant post. There are better alternatives.

In the meantime, this restriction of the frequency of letting your child put simple carbs in their mouth is the most sure method to minimize cavities where you can’t brush or floss. It also optimizes things if you happen to be a less-than-perfect brusher and flosser of your kid’s teeth (REAL MOMS sometimes slip a little).

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About the author 

Dr Paul

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