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Tooth decay in children

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Why are some kids more prone to dental decay?

Tooth decay in children and adults is one of the most prevalent illnesses in the world. Almost every adult on the planet has had cavities at some point in their life — usually from when they were children.

Children are highly likely to get dental cavities, but it’s not always for the reasons you may think. Diet definitely plays an important role, and combined with poor dental hygiene is the leading cause of cavities. Yet it’s not all about the sugary snacks.

Let’s start with the obvious, and then move on to the interesting.

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How Diet Results in Cavities

Any parent reading this will know that sugary foods and drinks — lollies, cordial, soft drink, etc. — is bad for their children’s teeth. The sugars get stuck to the teeth, bacteria eat the sugars, and bacterial waste softens and decays teeth.

But sugar’s not the only problem area in a child’s diet.

Sugars are a type of carbohydrate, the dreaded “carbs”. They’re the best known when it comes to rotting teeth, but they’re not the only offender.

Carby, starchy foods like bread and potato chips (of all kinds) also contribute to bacterial growth that leads to tooth decay. Think it’s better to give your child a slice of bread than a couple of lollies? Think again.

Potato chips of all kinds are particularly bad because they can become quite compacted into the biting surface of teeth, making them extra hard to get rid of. They become perfect breeding grounds for bacteria.

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Non-Diet Related Causes of Tooth Decay

Less well-known to parents are the genetic factors which can result in tooth decay.

You may notice that you or your child brush and floss and eat teeth-friendly foods — yet decay still occurs. Why?

There are two possible reasons.

The first is a very rare genetic condition where the enamel of the teeth doesn’t develop properly. This leaves them more prone to decay and damage, as they lack the strength of regular teeth. It affects approximately 0.1% of the population.

More likely is hypomineralisation. Again the enamel hasn’t developed properly, but usually because there was a lack of mineralisation in the enamel that prevented it from hardening consistently over the surface of a tooth.

Weak patches break and fall off the tooth, leaving it vulnerable. This affects 14% of Australian pre-schoolers.

Regular trips to the children’s dentist will allow them to monitor the health and development of the teeth. Special fillings may be needed for cavities that form. For children, dental sealants can help to protect the teeth by preventing food from getting stuck to the surface of the tooth itself.

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