Smiles For Tomorrow

Course Author(s): American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Chicago, IL


All solid and liquid foods containing fermentable carbohydrates are potentiallycariogenic. Acid-forming bacteria, such as caries-producing Streptococcusmutans, begin the immediate breakdown of sucrose from food, potentially contributingto dental caries.

Sugars on the tooth surfaces are converted to acid within seconds of ingestion.The acid acts to demineralize the tooth. Left undisturbed, the acid producedfrom the ingestion of a sugar can remain in the oral cavity up to 2 hours.During this acid attack, the pH level of plaque drops from a normal range of 6.2-7.0down to a pH of 5.2-5.5, the level at which demineralization can occur.

Consumption of caries-producing solid and liquid foods will lower the oral pHto a level that makes the enamel susceptible to caries. These frequent exposurescan lower the pH to demineralizing levels for several hours per day.

Diet and Dental Caries:

The texture of foods, likewise, influences the length of time demineralizationcan occur. Foods that are more retentive and slower to dissolve will remainon the tooth surface for a longer time.

After the eruption of the first primary tooth, prevention of ECC is possibleby restricting bottle/breast feeding to normal meal times and not allowing the infantto feed ad libitum or while sleeping. In order to eliminate or reduce cariesrisk in their infant or young child, caretakers should understand the relationshipbetween diet and dietary habits and dental caries. The caregiver should beadvised to establish a pattern of three regular meals a day. In between-mealsnacks should be limited and be foods of high nutrient density with low cariogenicity.

Additionally, incorporating more fibrous and less-retentive foods, such as uncookedcrisp fruits and vegetables, will help stimulate salivary flow and promote the remineralizationprocess.