Written by Pliro
Jun 25, 2018 Last updated: Oct 22, 2018

We use the term “dental caries” to talk about dental decay or cavities caused by bacteria. Some bacteria that are commonly found in the human mouth have the ability to produce corrosive substances that eventually destroy the tooth’s enamel and dentin (outermost layers of the tooth).

Caries-causing bacteria usually build up in a thin film around the tooth called plaque made of saliva, traces of food and other substances. These microorganisms feed on sugar from your food and continue creating cavities.

Eventually, the bacteria will reach the nerve tissue inside the tooth. The infection can cause a lot of pain there and in some cases, it can spread to other places, increasing the risk for the patient’s health.

Children are very vulnerable to dental decay/caries. Either due to behavioral factors like hygiene and diet or internal factors like genetics.

Risk Factors

After many years of research, the most important and common risk factors (biological, socioeconomic and behavioral) associated to caries are:

  • Children living with more than 3 other people
  • Low family income
  • High sugar intake at 1 or 2 years old
  • Candy intake over 2 times /week
  • Drinking sugary drinks over twice per day (from 3 to 6 years old)
  • Unemployed parents
  • Visible plaque
  • Immigrant status (very recent immigrant)
  • High carcinogen intake
  • Poor dental hygiene habits
  • High frequency of snacks during the day
  • Parents with poor dental hygiene
  • Parents with part-time jobs
  • Age of first dental visit

Preventive measures

So far, oral fluoride supplementation (beginning at 6 months old) is one of the most recommended methods. Professionally applied fluoride varnish is also an excellent method of prevention for young children (under 5 years old).

Other methods are more common, simply designing a diet without an excess of processed sugar, visit the dentist regularly and having basic dental hygiene (bushing at least 1 each day).

Fluoride treatments should be applied by professionals who are able to asses the fluoride needs of the child. In some cases, water contains fluoride, however, its concentration in normal drinking water in simply too low to cause an effect.

Some people recommend to pregnant women to ingest greater amounts of fluorine to help their children have less caries in their early days, however, so far, scientist have not been able to find such an effect.

Low-fat diets have no impact over caries incidence. Some sources may suggest the contrary, but carbohydrates are the main elements to modify in the child’s diet.

Keeping a child’s teeth healthy requires maintenance, care and a bit of planning. We hope that the information above helps you in all of these facets.