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Dr. Kimi’s Helpful Hints for Strong Bodies and Teeth
Jun 12 2018

Why are toddlers getting cavities?

Did you know 27.9% of kids age 2-5 have dental caries? 51.17% of all children have tooth decay on their baby teeth during their childhood, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. What is creating this tooth decay epidemic? There are multiple components that contribute to tooth decay such as oral hygiene, genetics, a child’s microbiome- the symbiotic bacteria living within their gut, and diet. The Western diet has become a diet of convenience. Convenience is one of the main reasons people choose their food in America, especially parents.

I get it 100%.

Being a working Mom myself I hear “I’m starving” most nights when picking my kids up from day care. I cannot get dinner on the table fast enough. They ask, “Can I have a snack?” and the easiest thing to have ready is the toddler favorite, a cracker. Toddlers are hungry all the time and always wanting a snack. They eat when they wake up, then they have breakfast, a morning snack, a nap snack, lunch, after nap snack, midafternoon snack, dinner, and don’t forget the stalling for bed snack.

This “snacking” has created a new term in dentistry, “Cracker Cavities.”

Every time your child eats, the environment within the mouth changes. There is a pH drop creating an environment perfect for decay causing bacteria. What your child snacks on determines their exact pH change. If your child snacks on an acidic snack, like crackers or junk food, their pH will drop significantly. If they have a piece of cheese the pH change will be smaller. If they snack on vegetables the pH drop will be even smaller. This pH drop can recover, but the more times the pH drops in a day, the more likely a cavity will occur.

In my practice, moms are always telling me the only thing they can get their toddler to eat are crackers, puffs, or pouches. What can they do to prevent cavities? There are a few tricks that can help.

• If your child’s favorite food is a cracker, I’m not saying they can never have crackers. What I am saying, is that the crackers need to be with a main meal. If the crackers are given with other foods that are alkaline, foods that don’t drop the pH, then the effect is not as drastic. The most important time to cut back on the crackers is in between meals and before bed.

• Limit the amount of exposures. Try to have your toddler eat 5 times a day, 3 meals and 2 snacks. The decrease in exposures that cause a pH drop will equally decrease the risk of cavities.

• If you child does snack on crackers, make sure they wash it down with water. After the water, have them open their mouth, most likely their back teeth will still be full of crackers. I taught my kids how to swish water in their mouth at a young age. If we are on the go, I make sure after crackers, cookies, or puffs they thoroughly swish with water and I have them open, so I can check that the food has been displaced.

• If they are old enough to chew gum, Xylitol gum can dislodge the food and fight off the bad bacteria. My favorite gum is Spry. Spry also makes small chewable mints with Xylitol, those can be better for little ones.

• Try to brush their teeth after snacking with an alkaline toothpaste or baking soda.

• Try to floss after snacking or at least before bedtime. Use Coco Floss– an expanding floss coated in coconut oil that helps displace food and bacteria and create an alkaline environment in between the teeth.

• Try to make their overall diet alkaline. In an alkaline environment, decay cannot occur. Some kids naturally run acidic. These kids are the ones more likely to have cavities. They must be extra careful. An easy way to help your body be more alkaline is to have a glass of lemon water in the morning. Lemons are acidic, so it is important to not sip on it all day, but a glass in the morning can help alkalize your gut. Swishing with Baking Soda in water or using Baking Soda as a toothpaste can also help. Alkaline foods are veggies, nuts, legumes, and seafood.

• Support the good bacteria. Have your child take a Probiotic every day. There are Probiotics that can be mixed with water and swished as well to coat the teeth with good bacteria. Evoraplus makes mints with oral probiotics

• Brush with a Prebiotic toothpaste such as Revitin. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria in the mouth.

• Snack on Arginine rich snacks. Arginine is a Prebiotic, meaning it feeds the good bacteria in the mouth. It also is alkaline which helps make your oral environment alkaline (a basic pH.) Snacks rich is Arginine are nuts, sunflower seeds, spinach, soy, and seafood. Tom’s of Maine also makes an Arginine toothpaste that works great.

• Eat or drink Kefir as a snack. Kefir’s tart and refreshing flavor is like a drinking-style yogurt, but it contains beneficial yeast as well as probiotics. The naturally occurring bacteria and yeast in kefir combine symbiotically to give superior health benefits. This combination also creates an oral environment full of “good bugs” and is alkaline.

• Eat Basic Bites– a chewable candy like substance that helps the mouth pH become more basic. The ingredient list has a few things I don’t love, so I’d rather have a dietary change, but if you’re not able to change the diet, have the child chew these.

Changing habits is one of the most difficult things to do, especially in a stubborn toddler. Take it one day at a time and start slow. Making one small change a week can add up to huge change overall. Together we can stop “Cracker Cavities” and the epidemic of tooth decay.

Dr. Kimi is not affiliated with any dental products and recommends based only upon her professional opinion.

Questions about this blog or how to prevent tooth decay in your child? Email Dr. Kimi at DrKimi@PureSmilesSouthBay.com

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