Disrupting The Decay Formula

Decay starts with the interaction of three critical factors:

Sugar + Bacteria + Time

Reducing each of these factors is something that can be achieved with a bit of knowledge, time and effort.

1. Reduce the frequency of sugars in your child’s diet.

Many people think that it is the amount of sugar that is damaging to teeth. It is actually the frequency of carbohydrate intake is the factor most strongly associated with development of decay. Lots of little sugar hits during the day does far more damage than eating that same amount of sugar once per week (and then brushing your teeth!).

Carbohydrates that can cause decay include includes added sugars and refined complex carbohydrates.

2. Help brush your child’s teeth twice daily.

Brushing should start from the first appearance of teeth, twice daily. Children need assistance from an adult until about the age of 8 years, or sometimes longer, depending on manual dexterity.

Plaque is made up of bacteria, that excrete acids as part of their food cycle. These acids eat away at the tooth surface and result in the holes we know of as decay. Brushing off this almost invisible, very sticky film of plaque will ensure that minimal bacteria are present on the teeth to start decay.

Regardless of their independent spirit, children from 6-8 years do not yet have adequate fine motor skills to brush effectively, so they still need help from a parent at least once per day (preferably at the night-time brushing) with adult strength toothpaste. We recommend helping your child past the age of 8 years for as long as you think they’re not removing plaque effectively.

An electric toothbrush will help you and your child. We recommend electric toothbrushes from as early as your child will tolerate. I started brushing my son’s teeth with an electric toothbrush just before he turned 2, and it made a big difference to his cooperation (and my sanity…where was the warning about toddler toothbrushing!).

Children shouldn’t be expected to remember all by themselves to brush twice per day and may need consistent reminding to get them into the habit. Children are busy, easily distracted and have many other things in mind that they would rather be doing than brushing their teeth. Think about a positive reward system and a brushing chart to keep track of any times that are being missed.

Very young children often find brushing unpleasant and can sometimes be quite willful in resisting attempts to brush their teeth. Do not underestimate how much this will test your patience and resolve! Keep persisting and you’ll come out the other side with a child who has toothbrushing as a regular part of their routine.

3. Reduce the time for plaque to cause damage

Bacteria (plaque) needs to be brushed off 2 times per day. Any longer than 10-12 hours and they’ve invited all their nasty friends to crash the party and start doing damage.

Don’t leave check-ups for too long! 6-monthly check-ups come around very quickly in the busy life of a parent, but it is a long time in the life of a tooth under stress from sugars and plaque acids.

Dentists have an eye for catching decay early. There are subtle signs on a tooth that show as acid damage long before a hole can be recognised. Early decay is reversible and check-ups every 6 months from the age of 1 year will help us identify problems early.

There is very good evidence that the application of concentrated fluoride every 6 months has the ability to reduce the risk of decay in children.

Being able to come to the dentist and have a fun, simple visit every 6 months goes a long way towards giving your child a positive view of dentists.