Why Does my Child Keep Getting Cavities?

Jun 02, 2023
Why Does my Child Keep Getting Cavities?
Cavities and kids seem to go together. Have you ever wondered why? Read on to learn why cavities are part of the childhood experience and what you can do to change it.

When you think about chronic childhood issues, conditions like asthma, diabetes, or obesity may come to mind. But did you know tooth decay is the leading chronic childhood disease in the United States? Remarkably, more than half of children aged 6 to 8 get at least one cavity in their primary teeth.

So why worry? Doesn’t everyone get a cavity at some point? The real issue is that poor oral health can translate into poor academics. Children with poor oral health miss more school and get lower grades than children who have healthy teeth. What’s even worse is it’s preventable, says Ginger Rome, DDS, and the friendly, skilled dental team at The Dentists at North Cypress in Houston, Texas. This blog explains the propensity of childhood cavities and what you can do about it.

Tooth decay explained

Let’s begin this discussion with a quick primer on what tooth decay is in the first place. Tooth decay — referred to as cavities or caries — is all about tooth enamel, the outer layer of a tooth. Enamel is the hardest material produced in the human body.

Although enamel doesn’t contain any living cells, it plays a role in what happens in the inner layers of your teeth — dentin and pulp. Specifically, enamel’s super tough exterior, mostly made of the mineral hydroxyapatite, serves as a protective shield for the inner layers.

However, despite its hardness and strength, damage can happen to the enamel, where substances and circumstances can weaken, impair or breach its tough exterior. Breaches in enamel are often the first sign of a cavity.

The dangerous duo: bacteria and sugar

Perhaps the most common factor that may result in cavities for a child is the combination of bacteria and sugar. Although this scenario is not necessarily unique to children, candy and sweets are typically part of the childhood experience.

 The human mouth is teeming with both good and bad bacteria. Dietary sugar from candy, sugary drinks, and snacks is a magnet to bacteria. Add a little saliva to the sugar-bacteria combination, and you get a recipe for dental plaque, a film that forms on the surface of your teeth.

While this happens, the amount of acid in your mouth — the pH factor, can change. If it drops below normal, a chemical reaction can occur that results in a weakening or dissolving of enamel, known as tooth demineralization. Tooth demineralization sets tooth decay in motion. If allowed to play out, small holes form, eventually growing large until they result in a cavity. 

Poor oral hygiene habits

Candy, sweets, and sugary snacks and foods aren’t the only things that may be causing your child’s cavities. Just because your child may be consuming a lot of sugar doesn’t mean it’s inevitable that they get cavities. It puts them at a higher risk for cavities, but when you add poor oral hygiene habits to the equation, the scale tips toward getting cavities.

The good news is that a strong and consistent hygiene routine can reduce the risk. It all starts when that first tooth appears. You can set an example by brushing your child’s teeth when they are toddlers. Kids under six years don’t brush well, so they need extra guidance until they get the hang of it. As they get a little older and start to brush their teeth, it’s prudent to watch them.

Start regular dental visits early

Another great way to reinforce good oral care habits early is to schedule routine dental checkups. Typically regular visits can start within six months of when they get their first tooth or no later than 12 months. Visiting the dentist as part of your child’s routine accomplishes two important things – it reinforces the importance of having healthy teeth and makes the dentist’s office feel less intimidating.

The Dentists at North Cypress offers a warm, welcoming environment for children and adults. We take pride in helping our patients get and maintain a lifetime of healthy smiles. To get started on your best smile, contact The Dentists at North Cypress for a consultation by calling or scheduling an appointment online today.