What causes toddler cavities?

My toddler has cavities! But why?

We have almost all had a cavity at some time, but why do some get more than others? What causes toddler cavities?
Here is some information and a few tips to help keep your child cavity free:

  1. Cavities also called caries or “sugar bugs” by pediatric dentists, are caused by the most likely culprit, the bacteria known as Streptococcus Mutans.
  2. The “sugar bugs” need sugar in order to make cavities. So the less sugar your child eats or drinks, the lower the risk your child has of getting a cavity.
  3. Carbohydrates also break down into sugars! So even if your child has a relatively low sugar diet, frequent snacks high in carbohydrates provide “sugar bugs” a food source they can use to make cavities.

Prevent Toddler Cavities

  1. Oral hygiene plays a large role in caries risk. The cleaner you keep the mouth, the better! Regular flossing is needed to clean in between teeth that are touching!
  2. Another important tool available to reduce the risk of cavities is fluoride. Fluoride helps strengthen the tooth and makes it harder for the bacteria to form cavities!
  3. Saliva also helps protect teeth. It contains salivary mucins that help prevent bacteria from attaching to teeth.
  4. If your child is a mouth breather or on certain medications that reduce salivary flow, he/she may have a dry mouth. This means their saliva is not as protective and has reduced the ability to prevent caries. Drinking water throughout the day and/or chewing xylitol gum can increase mouth moisture. Xylitol is a sugar that cannot be metabolized by oral bacteria so it does not contribute to caries risk.
  5. Additionally, everyone makes less saliva when they are sleeping which increases the risk for caries if teeth are dirty during the night! To help prevent cavities, make sure your child’s teeth are brushed and flossed before they go to bed!

By reducing dietary sugars, following a consistent oral hygiene schedule, and using fluoridated toothpaste, you can greatly reduce the risk of your toddler getting cavities!

Dr. Easte Warnick DDS

Dr. Easte Warnick received a degree in Geology from the University of Nevada Las Vegas in 2001. After working as a geologist for Los Alamos National Laboratory and Bechtel SAIC, she returned to school and completed dental training at the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in 2012.

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