Some parents and children are doing everything right. They brush 2x/day, they floss, they are eating healthy snacks, yet they have cavities and/or continue to get them. You help them brush. They don’t sit around eating candy all day. Yet they still have a cavity?! You may feel like this is your fault, and you just can’t get it right.
Consider the complexity of the human body, why should the mouth and its complex biology be any different? There are 10,000 genes responsible for the formation of teeth. Our own unique physiology can predispose us to developing decay. It’s true, some dental conditions are genetic! There are many factors that contribute to tooth decay, and they all must work together to create the “perfect storm” that becomes a cavity. As a parent or caregiver, we cannot control every factor, but we can largely control diet and oral hygiene.
Enamel is designed for optimum strength above a pH level of 5.5. Water and saliva hover around a pH of 7. Eating food, ANY food (or beverages) drops the neutral pH of the mouth below this level to a zone where enamel becomes more susceptible to decay. This means individuals who routinely snack or consume small meals are exposing their teeth more frequently to this low pH, making them more susceptible to tooth decay. When these snacks are acidic themselves, the damage becomes more severe. When we add carbs to the mix, which are broken down into simple sugars, it becomes the perfect diet for oral bacteria to eat away at the tooth creating a hole, similar to a worm boring through an apple.
Sports drinks including Gatorade, Propel, and other flavored beverages.
Some bottled waters are even acidic!
We don’t encourage eliminating highly acidic food, but we do encourage consuming highly acidic foods in one sitting, rather than periodically throughout the day, and drinking water along with them, to buffer the acid. For kids who do consume more meals/snacks per day, providing low acid snacks and plenty of water can help keep teeth as healthy as possible. Fluoride in toothpaste and mouth rinse also helps protect teeth from these acid attacks children are exposed to daily. The fluoride ion replaces a weaker ion in the enamel structure leaving the teeth stronger and less vulnerable to acid attack.
Some of these acidic foods are also sugary and sticky, foods like fruit snacks, sour patch kids and gummy bears are very difficult for kids and parents to clean out of the grooves of the teeth and are culprits in many children for the formation of cavities.
*Foods with high acidity are not necessarily the same food that produce acidic by-products, or contribute to an acidic or alkaline diet. We are strictly focusing on acidic food/beverages before and as they are consumed and are in contact with teeth, not the type of acidity/alkalinity they result in after being digested and converted inside the bloodstream.