These are our children. We’d do anything for them, right?
Helping them grow up with healthy smiles takes a little wrangling with microbes, though. Consider the results of a study published in last December’s Journal of Oral Microbiology:
The Oregon Health & Science University School of Dentistry have determined that certain genetic strains of bacteria are dominant in children one year after treatment for microbial-caused plaque and tooth decay, and six new previously undetected minor strains were identified.
Some of these, they found, are resistant to xylitol, well-known for its ability to prevent cavities.
But while some kinds of oral flora can cause problems, we rely on others to maintain good health. Think of this: Bacteria make up more than 10 times the number of your body cells. In fact, our bodies are the host to more than 100 trillion microbes, many of which are not just beneficial but necessary.
Think of your body as an enclosed ecosystem. It is only when the ecosystem is out of balance that the populations shift and the pathogens (microbes that can make us sick) overpopulate and gain a foothold, contributing to illness.
Oral health is all about keeping the oral flora in proper balance.
Persistent or not, the mere presence of microbes doesn’t spell doom for your child’s teeth. Cavities are preventable.
Many factors can make the difference at dental check-up time. Frequent snacking and dry mouth are important to avoid. But the best route to a healthy mouth is based on good hygiene and diet.
And what makes hygiene “good”?
- Waiting 20 to 30 minutes after eating to clean your teeth. (When you eat, oral conditions turn acidic for a while. This delay allows them to neutralize. Brushing right away can actually damage teeth and gums.)
- Brushing with a soft-bristled brush and toothpaste containing no fluoride or sodium lauryl sulfate.
- Flossing and using a proxy brush to clean the areas your toothbrush can’t get to.
When it comes to diet, balanced, varied and nutrient-rich is the key, with many more whole foods – including fresh produce and whole grains – than processed. There are a couple kinds of foods, though, to be careful about: sugars and fermentable carbohydrates (carbs that are digested as sugar). These are the preferred foods of decay- and disease-causing microbes, and because they tend to stick to the teeth, they give the pathogens that much more time to feed. These include
- Soft drinks of all kinds – soda, energy drinks, sports drinks. (And no, diet drinks aren’t the solution, for their acids can still damage tooth enamel, making teeth more decay-prone. More, research now suggests they may raise risk of diabetes, as well!)
- Fruit juice. (Fresh whole fruit is great!)
- Candy – especially chewy candies that easily stick to and get wedged between teeth. (If sweets are desired, chocolate is most tooth-friendly.)
- Dried fruit (the stickiness factor again).
- French fries and Tater Tots.
- White bread and pasta.
- Cake, pie and cookies.
Along similar lines, if your child uses an inhaler for asthma, it can leave an acidic residue. So whenever possible, do let them brush after using their inhalers.
The more dedicated you are to practicing and instilling healthy habits like these, the better your defense against persistent decay.