Cavities Not Your Child's Worst Dental Enemy

 New research shows cavities may not be your child's worst dental enemy.

"This research is on dental erosion -- a silent process that's eating away at a tooth's enamel. The treatment for this condition can be simple," Dr. Bruce Hensel said.

Finding out your child has a cavity is the last thing parents want to hear after a dental exam. But now there's something else to worry about. A first-of-its-kind study finds that 30 percent of 10-to 14-year-olds have dental erosion. It's the loss of enamel caused by acids found in certain foods and drinks.

Dental Researcher Bennett Amaechi says that at the early stage dental erosion can be identified by a very shiny surface. So shiny, people don't usually notice a problem.

Anna Vega enrolled three of her children in the study. Her 11-year-old's teeth had trouble spots.

"I really didn't think it was doing any damage to them. I figured they ate it, they would brush. And it turned out that stuff was doing harm to them," Vega said. 

Researchers focused on acidic products that cause dental erosion like soda, sports drinks, herbal teas, fruit juices and some candies. While you don't have to avoid them completely,moderation is key. Like cavities, catching erosion at its earliest can help prevent problems.

"The key thing is that dentists should capture it at the early stage because if you leave it to get advanced, the patient will suffer by sensitivity," Amaechi said. 

Anna says her kids only have soda or candy on special occasions, because now they know the damage it can do.

"Some other hints: in addition to cutting down on sodas and sugary drinks, don't have your children brush their teeth immediately after candy or soda. Have them rinse with milk first.  It helps break up the acid on their teeth before they brush. If their teeth are sensitive; have them checked for dental erosion; it can be reversed when caught early," Dr. Hensel said.

Tooth erosion is the loss of enamel caused by exposure to acids.
In a recent study, about 30 percent of middle school students were found to have some degree of tooth erosion.
High acid foods and beverages, like colas and some citrus fruits, are more likely to cause tooth erosion.
Patients can take steps to reduce the risk for tooth erosion.
For more details, refer to our comprehensive research summary.

For general information: Academy of General Dentistry
American Dental Association

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