Tooth decay most common childhood disease

Tooth decay most common childhood disease


CHICAGO—Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease—five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. As Halloween approaches, so does the increased consumption of sweets and treats, which put children at an increased risk for the disease. To help safeguard your children, the Chicago Dental Society has compiled a list of answers to many common questions about tooth decay.

What is tooth decay or dental caries?

Tooth decay, also known as dental caries, is a disease of the teeth. It affects people of all ages, although it is especially common in children and young adults. Dental caries occurs when the enamel of the tooth is destroyed. Decay begins at this hard enamel surface, and the longer it is left untreated, the deeper it advances into the tooth to areas such as the dentin and the pulp. The earlier decay is treated, the better chance of saving the tooth.

How does it happen?

The bacteria inside of the mouth change the food (mostly sugars and starches) we eat into acids. Over time, the bacteria and acids form a sticky deposit called plaque that clings to the teeth. If the plaque is not removed, the acids will destroy the tooth’s enamel surface—resulting in holes or cavities. Sugar and starches (such as candy, cake, cookies, milk and pop) are the main culprits of tooth decay, but sour foods (such as lemons and fruit juices) also contribute to decay because they change the pH (acidity level) in the mouth. If left untreated, the decay will progress and can lead to tooth infection. Children’s teeth primarily decay in the grooves. An adult’s teeth decay in the grooves as well, but are more prone to decay in other areas including the roots of the teeth, which may be exposed as a result of receding gums.

How is tooth decay treated?

A dentist removes the decay in the tooth, and a restorative material is put in its place. The degree of the decay will determine how the tooth is restored. Popular methods include fillings, crowns or inlays. Your dentist will determine the best way to save the tooth.

How do you prevent tooth decay?

Practicing good oral hygiene, eating nutritious foods and visiting the dentist on a regular basis will help prevent cavities. The Chicago Dental Society provides the following guidelines for preventing tooth decay.

l Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.

l Floss daily to clean in between teeth

l Eat well-balanced meals and limit snacking.

l Visit the dentist regularly for routine check-ups and cleanings.

l Talk to your dentist about the use of fluoride to strengthen the teeth and also dental sealants (a plastic protective coating put on the surface of the back teeth) to protect them from decay.

When should you contact a dentist?

The Chicago Dental Society recommends a dentist at least every six months for a cleaning and a thorough examination. You should consult a dentist immediately if you experience any problems or need emergency care.

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