Smiles For Tomorrow
Protective Factors

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

Protective Factors

The most studied factors that are protective of dental caries include systemicand topical fluoride, sugar substitutes, and tooth brushing with fluoridated toothpaste.A dental home is included as a protective factor in many caries-risk assessmentmodels.

  1. Fluoride
    Using fluoride for the prevention and control of decay is proven to be bothsafe and effective. Caries risk assessment should include the dosage andfrequency of fluoride exposure from various sources such as water, dietary supplements,rinses, toothpastes and other dietary sources of fluoride like beverages andprocessed food. The primary water source (which may not be the child'shome) should be identified and assessed for fluoride. Professional topicalfluoride applications performed semiannually reduce caries risk.
  2. Oral Hygiene
    At home oral hygiene and plaque control remain essential elements for oral health.Children’s teeth should be brushed twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste anda soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush. Flossing should be initiatedwhen adjacent tooth surfaces can not be cleansed by a toothbrush.
  3. Additional At-home PreventiveMeasures
    Use of antimicrobial rinses and sugar substitutes can help decrease a child’srisk for caries. Studies indicate that xylitol, a sugar substitute, canreduce mutans streptococci levels in plaque and saliva and can reduce dentalcaries in young children and adults, including children via their mothers.
  4. Dental Home
    The dental home (regular periodic care by the same practitioner) benefits oralhealth through an emphasis on prevention and early intervention. The AmericanAcademy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association recommendestablishment of a dental home by a child’s first birthday.