Rethinking Cavity Prevention for Kids

No one likes going to the dentist, and that goes doubly true for children. Nonetheless, every year countless kids receive fillings for cavities. But what if this wasn’t the best way to avoid persistent dental problems for young children as they get older?

A Collaborative Effort

This somewhat surprising conclusion came from a three year study, featuring contributors from a number of educational establishments, such as the Universities of Dundee, Newcastle, Sheffield, Cardiff. Queen Mary University of London and Leeds also contributed to the report. All of the authors were dentists, making them highly qualified to weigh in on this matter.

In total, the study reviewed the dental health of 1,140 children. These young subjects were between the ages of three and seven, and each had experienced tooth decay to a certain extent. From this original figure, 450 children were chosen at random to be followed for the duration of the study’s three-year period.

Prevention is the Key

Upon reviewing this information, the researchers found that preventing tooth decay proved better for dental health than treatment. “Our study shows that each way of treating decay worked to a similar level but that children who get tooth decay at a young age have a high chance of experiencing toothache and abscesses regardless of the way the dentist manages the decay,’ stated senior author Nicola Innes, Chair of Paediatric Dentistry at the University of Dundee. “What is absolutely clear from our trial is that the best way to manage tooth decay is not by drilling it out or sealing it in — it’s by preventing it in the first place.”

The research team noted that, for the 450 children followed for the entirety of the study, treatment proved unable to prevent further dental problems. One treatment approach involved avoiding fillings in favor of twice-daily brushing with fluoridated toothpaste, along with the application of fissure sealants on permanent molar teeth. The second option relied on fillings to address dental problems, while a third approach tried to seal tooth decay with either a metal crown or filling.

Another study contributor, Professor Gail Douglas from the University of Leeds, noted that “the good news however is that tooth decay can be prevented. Brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, especially last thing before bedtime, avoiding sugary drinks and snacks between meals and seeing a dentist regularly are all small habits that can help boost the overall health of your teeth.”

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