The answer will vary from person to person. Oral hygiene, diet, and tooth anatomy are the main factors in determining cause of decay.
Many children will not have adequate manual dexterity to thoroughly clean their teeth until age 12. Unfortunately many children are left to brush their own teeth from age 2. Daily brushing needs to be monitored closely by parents to ensure the teeth are being adequately cleaned. A good routine is to let the child start with brushing and to have the parent finish. Once the child consistently cleans their teeth effectively, the task can be passed on to the child (with occasional monitoring).
Brushing frequency is also a factor. Brushing should occur at night before bed (no snacks or drinks other than water after this) and after breakfast in the mornings. If an extra brushing can be done after lunch, all the better.
Lack of flossing is another frequent cause for tooth decay. By age 2 most kids will have all their baby teeth in. When the last of these teeth come in, the space between the back teeth often closes fairly quickly. This results in a food trap that brushing alone cannot take care of. Flossing every night, before brushing, will help to remove the food and bacteria trapped between these teeth and reduce the risk of decay. It is also important to floss between all the other teeth as well, focusing on the place where the teeth are touching.
Tooth anatomy impacts decay rate in a couple ways. The thickness of the outer layer of children’s teeth is a lot thinner than that of adults’ teeth. The inner layer is also more porous. This results in decay progressing more easily, and potentially a lot quicker in children’s teeth than in adults. Additionally, many children have deep grooves and pits in their teeth that trap food, and are thus more prone to decay. In some cases these grooves will be sealed off by the dentist with small fillings or sealants to help prevent decay.
Diet is a huge determinant of tooth decay. Eating foods that contain a lot of sugars and acids will increase potential for decay. Soft sticky foods will also get stuck to the teeth more readily and provide a longer lasting effect. To help avoid diet-related cavities, have your children stick to a more natural diet, with less processed foods. The primary drinks for children should be milk and water. Pop and juice are very acidic and contain lots of sugars, which make it no surprise to hear that these drinks are prime sources of concern for cavities.
Kids often have snacks throughout the day. It is very important to pick healthy snacks that won’t get stuck in their teeth. Chips and sugary ‘fruit’ snacks (especially gummy candies) should be avoided as much as possible. The best snacks for small children are cheese, carrots, and other vegetables. Cheese helps prevent cavities and vegetables like carrots act as natural tooth brushes. These snacks also contain very little for cavity causing bacteria to feed on.
If you are following proper oral hygiene routines,and you or your children are getting cavities, you may want to conduct a dietary assessment. We can help you determine the source of the problem, in order to turn things around and keep your children’s teeth strong. If you think this might be of benefit to you, contact us. We can set up a consult, and we can work together to make a change for the better.