It is currently thought that about 75% of dental cavities in children are initiated by a bacteria called Streptococcus Mutans. This particular bacteria readily converts carbohydrates to acid, easily sticks to the smooth surface of the tooth and survives under very acidic conditions.
Lactobacilli, the second most common form of bacteria in the mouth is usually found in higher numbers in people who have active cavities in their teeth and consume larger quantities of carbohydrates. Lactobacilli also readily converts sugars to acid, thrive in acidic conditions and live inside the cavity of the tooth initially created by Streptococcus Mutans. They are also found around grooves, pits and other hard to get to places such as orthodontic brackets and bands.
It has been shown that individuals that have high Streptococcus Mutans present in their mouth are much more likely to develop cavities within a relatively short period of time. It has also been demonstrated that primary care givers, mainly mothers, of toddlers and young children who have high levels of Streptococcus Mutans themselves will usually pass the bacteria to their offspring, thus leading to cavities in the children at a later time.
The Bacteria Caries Risk Test is an approximate measure of these two different types of bacteria in saliva. Performing the Bacterial Caries Risk Test on expectant women or mothers of babies and infants gives an opportunity to lower the level of bacteria in the mouth of the mother before it is transferred to the offspring. This leads to dental health benefits to both mother and child.
Performing the Bacterial Caries Risk Test on young children can help show if they have the cavity-causing bacteria present and are at higher risk for developing future cavities so that more aggressive strategies can be deployed to combat the cavity causing process.
Performing the Bacterial Caries Risk Test in a pediatric dental office on adolescents, teens, young adults and parents provides information on how much of the decay process is resulting from high bacterial levels or is a result of something else such as low saliva flow, weak tooth formation and too much acid intake in drinks. It also provides a baseline measurement to determine how much bacteria levels have decreased with preventative efforts since the last test.
What are good preventative strategies for infants, toddlers and kids with high bacteria levels?
- Good mechanical removal of the plaque by tooth brushing and flossing. The bristle against the tooth and the floss is what removes the plaque and bacteria.
- Use of Xylitol. Xylitol is a natural sweet substance that has been shown to reduce Streptococcus Mutans bacteria in the mouth when used regularly. It has also been shown to reduce transmission of bacteria from mother to child, resulting in less decay in the children’s teeth. It is available in toothpaste, gum, candy and powdered form. Xylitol toothpaste, wipes, or a small amount of Xylitol should be used in infant preventative dental care because it can cause G.I. upset.
- Antibacterial mouth rinses and varnishes have been shown to reduce cavity causing bacteria in the mouth over a short period of time. Enough time to “get ahead” of the high levels with Xylitol and tooth brushing / flossing.
- Attempt to replace cavity causing bacteria with “good bacteria” using a probiotic and/ or consuming an organic and refrigerated yogurt that contains live bacteria.
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