When I was in dental school, the professors used to tell us that we would see an end to tooth decay in the United States within our lifetime. Our understanding of the mechanism of decay along with the readily available tools and information about nutrition and home care techniques made us all believe that this could be true. Unfortunately, the reality has been quite the opposite.
If anything, tooth decay seems to be on the rise. It saddens me to say that more than a few of my young patients have come into the office in recent years with a sudden development of 10 or 12 cavities, or more. Processed, highly refined, and highly concentrated foods and beverages that contain large amounts of sugar, simple carbohydrates, and acid are certainly a huge part of the problem. But in every single case of extensive decay that I have seen in both children and adults, inadequate home care is always a factor.
I firmly believe that the most valuable teachings we can offer our children about healthy living are based in good nutrition and personal hygiene. And the hygiene of the mouth is a critical part of that picture. What happens in the mouth – what we eat, what we drink, and the bacteria that thrive as a result – can have a profound influence not just on our teeth, but on the health of the entire body.
I have not given up on the idea that tooth decay will someday be a thing of the past, but the key to that change starts at home. It's never too late to improve the health of your mouth, and it's never too early to start your kids on the right path to developing good oral hygiene habits. This month, I've created a resource specifically for parents to help you guide your children through each stage of their dental development at home. It is my hope that this information will help your children develop habits that will allow them to keep their teeth for a lifetime and get us all one step closer to the end to tooth decay.