Prevention is key in childhood and beyond


  Posted by: Dental Design      29th October 2023

Tooth decay is very common in children, with an estimated 50% of children aged 6-8 having a cavity in at least one of their teeth. Additionally, over half of those aged 12-19 have cavities in permanent teeth. While there are a number of factors which may increase a patient’s chances of developing tooth decay, research suggests that children between 5-19 are over 2 times as likely to have the disease if they come from a low-income household.[i] This can create barriers for some patients when accessing dental care, education, and resources. Because of this, it is important to focus on the benefits of prevention from a young age to reduce the risk of developing tooth decay at any stage in life.

Importance of prevention in early years

Cavities can form for a number of reasons including bacterial biofilm, eating sugary snacks, consuming drinks with a high sugar content, and insufficient dental hygiene. In the short term, if decay is left untreated, the cavity is likely to grow larger, and begin to impact deeper layers of tooth structure. This can result in tooth sensitivity, mild or sharp pain, and staining.[ii] In the long term, if left untreated, patients can expect more serious consequences such as severe toothache, pulp necrosis, and sometimes tooth loss.[iii]

Lack of resources is a key reason for tooth decay in children, with lack of education, barriers to dental care access, and financial challenges all playing a role. However, these issues may intensify should a patient require more involved care for a more serious issue. Even though cavities are incredibly common in children, they can be very easily prevented by keeping up good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and dental sealant application.

Dental sealants are able to help protect against the onset of decay for a number of years following application,[iv] if the patient’s oral hygiene is of a high standard. They are particularly helpful in maintaining the health of children’s molars as these are at an increased risk of cavities due to their complex fissure patterns and the role that they play.[v] One study found that, when a sealant is applied to the occlusal surfaces of the molars, it can prevent up to 80% of cavities.[vi] Sealants create a barrier to protect the enamel from plaque acids, preventing the demineralisation of the hard tissues.

While this is a fantastic option for troublesome areas, sealants must be used in conjunction with good oral hygiene. It is never too early to encourage children to look after their oral health. Good oral hygiene is key for maintaining oral health, and children should attend dental appointments regularly to ensure that teeth are examined soon after they erupt. This offers the opportunity for clinicians to assess a child’s risk of developing cavities.[vii]

Continuing this to adulthood

Insufficient oral hygiene is a key cause of cavities in patients of any age. Because of this, it is important to continue providing oral hygiene advice to all patients, including both adults and children, to help solidify the message, and give them the confidence to maintain high standards at home.[viii]

Some patients may think that, because they brush their teeth regularly, they will not have any problems. However, there are a number of places which ordinary tooth brushing cannot reach. As such, it is vital to recommend daily interdental cleaning to children over 12, to access the surfaces in between the teeth and remove any plaque and food debris. Interdental cleaning is an effective way of preventing tooth decay, and this is a good habit to get patients into once their permanent teeth are in place.[ix]

Tailoring oral hygiene advice to each patient is key for maintaining oral health. For children, recommend the Junior and Kids toothbrush ranges. These brushes feature slightly broader handles to make brushing easier, and SOFT bristles to deliver a high-quality clean while being gentle on the gums. For children over 12 and adult patients, the FLEXI range of interdental brushes from TANDEX is ideal for cleaning in between the teeth. The range is available in 11 different sizes, with flexible handles and when PREVENT GEL from TANDEX is applied with any FLEXI brush, patients gain the added benefit of its antibacterial effect and enamel strengthening properties, along with the pleasant taste of peppermint.

Even though tooth decay is incredibly common amongst children, it is important that it is not overlooked. There are a number of causes for the disease, and it is important to understand what measures patients should be taking at home to reduce the risks of cavity development, and protect their long-term oral health. With solutions such as dental sealants appropriate in some cases, there are many options to give your patients the best chances of preventing decay. However, at any age, oral hygiene is important, and encouraging patients to carry out interdental cleaning every day will drastically reduce the likelihood of decay.

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Author Kimberley Lloyd- Rees on behalf of Tandex

Kimberley graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2010, where she now works as a clinical tutor in Dental Hygiene and Therapy as well as working in practice. She has spent her career working across a variety of specialist private and mixed dental practices, for the MOD and volunteering her time to a dental charity in Nepal.

I[i] Beshers, Sarah. “An Evaluation of Eastman Institute for Oral Health’s Dental Sealant Program.” (2022).

[ii] Beshers, Sarah. “An Evaluation of Eastman Institute for Oral Health’s Dental Sealant Program.” (2022).

[iii] Beshers, Sarah. “An Evaluation of Eastman Institute for Oral Health’s Dental Sealant Program.” (2022).

[iv] Beshers, Sarah. “An Evaluation of Eastman Institute for Oral Health’s Dental Sealant Program.” (2022).


[vi] Beshers, Sarah. “An Evaluation of Eastman Institute for Oral Health’s Dental Sealant Program.” (2022).




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