Cavities FAQ

What is a cavity?

A cavity is when the enamel of the tooth breaks down due to bacteria left on the teeth. The bacteria thrive on foods and drinks containing carbohydrates. The bacteria release acids when exposed to these sugars and starches. If not removed daily, the acids destroy the enamel and a cavity forms. At Growing Smiles, we call these “sugar bugs” for small children who may not understand fully how cavities form. Dr. Meggan and her team will tell your child the story about sugar bugs and why it is necessary to clean them off the teeth.

How do I prevent a cavity?

Four things are needed to cause tooth decay:
A Tooth, Bacteria, Sugars and Starches, and Time

If any one of these things is eliminated, a cavity will not form. We all have bacteria or “sugar bugs” present in our mouths. They cannot be totally eliminated, but they can be reduced by daily flossing and proper brushing. Sugars and starches should be limited, especially sticky ones. It is not the amount of sugars and starches consumed, but the frequency, so even watered-down sugary beverages can cause cavities.

Children who snack and “graze” have a much higher incidence of decay than children who eat 3 meals a day with limited snacks. Watch for hidden sugars. The bacteria cannot tell the difference between sugar from juice or from soda. Some snacks (like cheese and nuts) do not contribute to cavities.

Why is flossing important?

Cavities can be prevented and it is easy! With daily brushing, flossing (don’t miss a day!) and proper nutrition your child will be will be on his way to a cavity free life. Children under age 8 do not have the fine motor skills to do a thorough cleaning. They will need parental help to keep the gum line areas clean on both the insides and the outsides of the teeth. They also will need help with flossing. Flossing cleans the areas of teeth that touch, where a toothbrush cannot reach. It is important that the children see their parents brush and floss regularly. You can set a good example regarding the importance of maintaining a healthy smile.