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    • 25 SEP 18
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    Cavities in Children and Adults

    A male patient sitting in a dental office chair looking at a screen with his dental x-rays while a dentist discusses his oral health problems.

    Did you know that about 92% of people have had cavities at some point in their life? This is why tooth decay is one of the most prevalent, chronic diseases according to the National Institutes of Health. 23% of children between 2 and 11 have untreated tooth decay. 26% of adults have it and even more people have it over age 65. Let us show you why cavities happen in children and adults and what can be done to stop them from happening!

     

    What Are Cavities?

    Many people have had a cavity or two when they see the dentist, but many also don’t know what that means. Those pesky cavities are also known as “tooth decay”, and it literally means the decay of your teeth. But, why don’t you see that decay when you look in the mirror? Cavities can be tricky, in that many of them aren’t visible and large ones can hide inside the teeth.

     

    When you eat, your mouth starts the digestive process. Food is broken down in your mouth by saliva so your body can digest it. Sugars in foods and drinks mixes with some of your mouth bacteria, creating a sticky film. That film is a substance called plaque, and instead of getting swallowed, it actually sticks to your teeth. If you look in the mirror, you might see that clear film stuck to your teeth along your gum line. Plaque is actually acidic, and if you don’t brush and floss your teeth, it will start to erode away your teeth.

     

    The acid works on your hard, outer tooth enamel until it eventually breaks down your tooth minerals. In a way, it will keep doing this the longer it sticks around, burrowing deeper into your tooth. If you brush your teeth sometimes, but not twice a day like you should, you may get shallow, surface decay that is a cavity. When you don’t brush and floss often at all, you can get deep cavities, which is like a crater inside your tooth. Those are large cavities. It all starts from that sticky film on your teeth that you can barely see, but can feel with your tongue.

     

    Digital representation of healthy teeth being afraid of a decaying tooth next to them.

    How Are Children and Adults Affected?

    • Decay can happen as soon as the first tooth appears in the mouth.
    • Cavities can cause tooth erosion, craters in the teeth, sensitivity in the teeth, toothaches, infections, abscesses, discoloration and tooth loss. Severe cavities will turn the teeth gray, then black, especially in the baby teeth.
    • 42% of children 11 and under have cavities. 28% of those 5 and under have cavities and 51% of 6-11 year-olds have cavities. The rate of untreated tooth decay in this age group is between 20% and 24%.
    • 59% of 12 to 18 year-olds have had cavities, with about 20% of those cases being untreated.
    • By adulthood, about 92% of people have had cavities. This is especially true of people between 20 and 64 years old.
    • The percentage of cavities as well as tooth loss and associated gum disease increases after age 65.
    • Oral health issues and diseases can be avoided—as well as tooth loss—if a person is brushing and flossing their teeth and seeing a dentist as they should.

     

    How Can You Prevent Cavities in Children?

    Oral hygiene guidelines (see below) are the same no matter your age. There are other factors you should think about with infants and very young children such as:

    • Never leave a bottle with an infant if they are going to bed or napping. This long exposure to milk sugars can cause “baby bottle tooth decay”, which is the decay of teeth due to milk. After drinking a bottle or nursing, clean the baby’s gums with a cloth.
    • Limit a child’s sugar intake. Infants should have little to no sugar if you can help it and children should have less than 6 grams a day. Check food labels and don’t give your children soda or sugary drinks. Limit juices or stick to water flavor enhancers instead of juice. Avoid tons of sugary treats throughout the day.
    • Make sure they are brushing and flossing. Parents will have to do this for children for the first few years of life, and should monitor brushing and flossing after that time.
    • Make sure they are seeing a dentist every 6 months or more, just like you are.

     

    Close-up view of a person's mouth with cavities and fillings in it and he is receiving another cavity fill.

    Oral Hygiene Guidelines to Live By

    The sad fact about cavities is that they can happen to anyone regardless of age or how well you think you are eating. To prevent them, these guidelines have been in place for years and are recommended by the American Dental Association and countless other health organizations:

    • Brush your teeth each and every day. Make sure that you brush for 2 minutes every time you brush and do it at least twice a day, if not after every meal. Cover all tooth surfaces, brushing in circles and other motions, and make sure to use fluoride toothpaste.
    • Floss your teeth. Studies show that if you skip flossing, you skip 40% of your tooth surfaces that can then decay. Use 18 inches of new floss each time, making sure that every few teeth get a new section of floss to prevent bacteria transfer. When flossing, make sure you get all the way up in your gum line, scraping your teeth as you go.
    • Use fluoride. This is a naturally-occurring mineral that helps provide a type of shield for your teeth that reduces your risk for cavities. Fluoride is found in public water sources as well as in gels, toothpastes, mouthwashes and other dental products.
    • Visit your dentist. Every person should see the dentist at least twice a year (every 6 months) for comprehensive examinations and dental cleanings. These are so important for catching cavities while they are still very small and can easily be fixed.

    Want more ways to avoid cavities? Call Dr. Evanson’s office today at (720) 409-0008 to see what products we use and how we use them!

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