Tooth decay

Tooth decay is a progressive disease resulting in the interaction of bacteria that naturally occur on the teeth and sugars in the everyday diet. Sugar causes a reaction in the bacteria, causing it to produce acids that break down the mineral in teeth, forming a cavity. Dentists remove the decay and fill the tooth using a variety of fillings, restoring the tooth to a healthy state. Nerve damage can result from severe decay, and may require a crown (a crown is like a large filling that can cap a tooth, making it stronger or covering it) and a pulpotomy (baby tooth root canal). Avoiding unnecessary decay simply requires strict adherence to a dental hygiene regimen: brushing twice a day and flossing everyday, regular dental checkups, diet control and fluoride treatment. Practicing good hygiene avoids unhealthy teeth and costly treatment.



Fluoride is a substance that helps teeth become stronger and resistant to decay. Regularly exposing teeth to fluoride through drinking water treated with fluoride or taking a fluoride tablet ensures significantly lower cavities. Dentists can evaluate the level of fluoride in a primary drinking water source and recommend fluoride supplements (usually in tablets or drops) if necessary.  In Chico and most of the surrounding areas, we do not have fluoride on our drinking water.  We therefore recommend a supplement which we will dose appropriately as your child grows.  We will give you the prescriptions, if you would like, at the 6 month check-up visits.



Sucking is a natural reflex that relaxes and comforts babies and toddlers. Typically children stop between the ages of two and four years on their own or with our gentle coaxing. Thumb sucking that persists beyond about four years of age and especially beyond the eruption of permanent teeth can cause improper growth of the mouth and misalignment of the teeth. If you notice prolonged and/or vigorous thumb sucking behavior in your child, talk to your dentists.

Here are some suggestions to use when helping your child stop the thumbsucking habit:

-Don't scold a child when they exhibit thumb sucking behavior; instead, praise them when they don't thumb suck.

-Focus on eliminating the cause of anxiety-thumb sucking is a comfort device that helps children cope with stress or discomfort.

-Place a bandage on the thumb or a sock on their hand at night.

-Purchase an over the counter substance for helping stop nail biting which can be applied to the thumb nail.


Why are primary teeth important?

Primary teeth are important for several reasons. Good teeth allow a child to eat and maintain good nutrition. Healthy teeth allow for clear pronunciation and speech habits. The self-image that healthy teeth give a child is immeasurable. Primary teeth also guide eruption of the permanent teeth.


Preventing baby bottle tooth decay

Tooth decay in infants can be minimized or totally prevented by not allowing sleeping infants to breast or bottle-feed. Infants that need a bottle to comfortably fall asleep should be given a water-filled bottle or a pacifier.  All types of milk (breast, cows, soy, formula, etc) contain carbohydrates that can cause tooth decay.  It is the frequency of exposure to the sugars that cause the most decay.  Decay is minimized if the teeth are not exposed to these sugars throughout the night.  If the child does need to feed at night, we suggest you wipe the teeth afterwards (even in the middle of the night) with a cloth containing water or xylitol.