Preventing childhood cavities: Common causes of tooth decay in children
Discover the common causes of tooth decay in children as we delve into the factors beyond brushing that contribute to this prevalent oral health issue.
Tooth decay is a widespread issue affecting children, with multiple factors contributing to its development. Despite your best efforts to prioritize your child's dental health, it can be disheartening to find them experiencing yet another cavity. While you diligently restrict sugary treats compared to other parents, it seems their children remain cavity-free. However, dental caries in children are influenced by more than just brushing and candy intake. It involves a complex interplay of various elements that contribute to decay. By comprehending these factors, you can uncover the underlying causes of cavities and take proactive measures to safeguard your child's precious smile. (Also read: Dental hygiene for kids: Tips for protecting your child's teeth from harmful bacteria )
According to government statistics, dental caries is a prevalent concern in India, affecting over 70% of school children and more than 90% of adults suffering from periodontal disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized dental caries as a significant global health issue, ranking it at the forefront of their 2015 Global Burden of Disease study. Disturbingly, an estimated 2.3 billion individuals with permanent teeth and 560 million children with milk teeth are affected by dental caries worldwide. These statistics serve as a wake-up call, urging us to prioritize dental health awareness and preventive measures to combat this pervasive oral health crisis.
"Children are more prone to tooth decay because of their predisposition to foods with high sugar content, poor oral hygiene, and in some cases extended orthodontic treatment with fixed braces. With the growing incidence of visits to the dentist for cavity fillings, it is essential we attack the problem from the root, so to speak," says, Dr. Varinder Goyal, Professor and Head, Department of Paediatric & Preventive Dentistry, Guru Nanak Dev Dental College, Punjab.
Causes of tooth decay:
Dr. Varinder Goyal further shared with HT Lifestyle, some common causes of demineralization and tooth decay.
1. Effects of acidic foods
Acidic fruits and juices, as well as fizzy drinks, can cause enamel breakdown and demineralization. Tooth demineralization is a natural process, and it only becomes an issue when your body cannot replace what is lost in the demineralization process. A lot of factors cause demineralization, including bacteria, and the acidic pH of the mouth, for example.
2. Effects of Bacteria
Your mouth harbours many types of bacteria, some of which are good for you and some of which can lead to tooth decay. Plaque, a sticky film that is continuously produced on your teeth, is like a colony where bacteria live, feed on the sugar in your food and beverages, and produce acids. Your teeth's minerals and enamel are gradually dissolved by these acids.
Too much sugary, starchy food and drink, along with not brushing your teeth twice a day, increases bacteria, plaque build-up, and tooth disease, and it also affects the pH level of the saliva. When the pH of your saliva falls below 5.5, acids in your mouth begin to demineralize your tooth enamel. Tooth enamel becomes weak and starts to become porous, leading to cavities, pain, and other dental problems.
3. No remineralization and absence of neutral pH environment
Remineralization occurs daily after an attack by acids from food through the presence of calcium, phosphate, and fluoride naturally found in saliva. Here, minerals are deposited back onto the enamel, restoring teeth to good as new. Saliva is thus a natural armour in our mouths that helps to neutralise acids, prevent and/or reverse demineralization. This demineralization-remineralization cycle however needs an external modulating agent to ensure things stay on track.
4. Toothpaste lacks arginine, fluoride, and naturally occurring calcium
Clinical research has shown that toothpaste containing 1.5% arginine combined with fluoride and natural calcium has superior anti-cavity efficacy to toothpaste containing fluoride alone. 3 Arginine is a naturally occurring amino acid and a protein building block. In oral care, it can help maintain a pH-neutral environment in the mouth, showing promising results in destabilizing biofilm, decreasing enamel demineralization and dentinal hypersensitivity, and supporting remineralization.
It is heartening to know that the scientific community continue to research ways to nourish and strengthen our teeth. For kids who often show no control over the foods they consume, a power-packed toothpaste is the necessary aid to strengthen teeth and prevent cavities for a healthy mouth.