Looking after teeth.
None of us are taught from a young enough age how to care for our teeth, few of us understand how and why decay forms…why we must have fillings.
Where it all begins
When babies are born, there are no teeth visible in their mouths. However, their primary teeth are already partially formed in the jaws but remain under the gums. They will begin to erupt in the mouth one by one when the baby becomes about six months to a year old.
The formation of teeth usually begins around the sixth week of embryo development.
Teeth are made up of layers, the two we will talk about here.
Is a yellow-coloured tissue that makes up the bulk of all teeth. It is harder than bone but softer than enamel, dentine sits below the layer of enamel.
The enamel on your teeth is the hardest and most highly mineralised substance in your body. It covers the outer layer of each tooth and is the most visible part of the tooth
Enamel may be the toughest substance in the body, but it is also one that can be easily destroyed.
Once Enamel is damaged it is hard to repair the natural tissue and most times it will lead to dental treatment being required.
So how do we protect the teeth of our children from the early days?
One thing you are never taught is that our mouth has its own natural defense system, referred to as a “buffering system”
Our own saliva will work hard to protect our teeth, but it is hindered by bad eating habits.
The role of salivary buffer systems is to maintain the salivary pH at a relatively constant level (i.e. 6.5-7) by buffering acids from dietary intake and acids produced by bacterial fermentation of carbohydrates, thereby decreasing the tooth demineralisation rate.
This means, that every time we eat or drink, our mouth will then create saliva to help reduce damage to our enamel.
This process takes time, so if we eat and drink at many intervals during the day the buffering action will be reduced.
For example, you have breakfast at 7 am, then a sugar drink at 7,45am, then a biscuit at 9, sugar in your coffee at 10, and so on, all day long all you do is bathe your mouth in sugar and the act of buffering is not able to work efficiently.
What can you do to help? ( advice from the British dental association )
- Quitting fizzy drinks: Fizzy drinks are the largest single source of sugar consumption for children aged 11-18, they provide an average of 29% of daily sugar intake – cutting them out for a month is an easy way to reduce sugar intake and to help encourage a reduced intake for the rest of the year, by switching to healthier alternatives.
- Sugar-free fizz is still bad for teeth: The fizz in sugar-free drinks is still acidic and can cause tooth erosion, so it’s much better to switch to tooth-friendly alternatives like water, milk, or a small serving of fruit juice – but this is best consumed with a meal, to reduce the erosive acidity of the fruit juice.
- Reduce sugary snacks: the risk of developing tooth decay increases as the amount and frequency of sugar consumption rises.
- Brush twice a day: keeping teeth clean by regular brushing helps prevent decay. Children’s brushing should be supervised until the age of seven. Ask your dentist for more advice.
- Use fluoride toothpaste: all children up to three years old should use a toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1000ppm, both morning and night. From three to six years old, their toothpaste should contain more than 1000ppm. For children six years and older, the recommended amount is between 1350ppm-1500ppm.
- Visit the dentist on a regular basis: ask your dentist how often you should visit and keep your appointments, if oral health problems are spotted early, then they can often be dealt with much more easily. Your dentist can answer any questions you have about the best way to look after your child’s teeth.
- Watch out for ‘hidden’ sugars: pure fruit juices can be a healthy choice, but the natural sugars these contain can still damage teeth. If you are offering fruit juice, drink it with a meal and only in a small glass (up to 150ml).
- Don’t graze on food all day.
These are all vital points we can follow to reduce the risk of dental decay and the long-term risk to dental enamel.