Dental caries is a preventable but very common childhood disease affecting millions of American children. Although there are many methods that have been effective in prevention of caries, not enough parents know enough about them; and the recommendations of dentists vary widely by type of dentist and the region.
Common preventive methods
The most commonly used preventive methods are:
Professional or at-home application of fluorides
Antimicrobials such as chlorhexidine
Sugarless or xylitol chewing gum
Heres what you need to know about each prevention method:
In-office fluoride treatments come in the form of fluoride gel, fluoride varnish or fluoride rinses. Your dentist may most likely recommend a fluoride treatment if you are not getting sufficient fluoride through fluoridated drinking water and other sources. The process involves the application of concentrated fluoride to your teeth for a period of several minutes.
At home fluoride applications that your dentist prescribes could mainly be of two types. Prescriptive fluoride treatment, as the name indicates, requires a prescription. Alternately your dentist may ask you to try an over the counter method for at home treatment.
Dental sealants are a widely popular method of caries prevention. According to the Mayo Clinic website, a sealant is a protective plastic coating that’s applied to the chewing surface of back teeth effectively sealing off the grooves and crannies that may collect food in teeth most likely to get cavities. They last upto 10 years before needing replacement. However, it may be necessary to get them checked periodically to ensure they are still in place.
Antimicrobial treatments such as chlorhexidine are recommended by dentist for those who are particularly likely to get tooth decay, such as people with certain medical conditions. Antimicrobial treatments come in the form of mouth rinses or other treatments.
Sugarless or xylitol chewing gum is probably the easiest method for caries prevention. Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar substitute which has the ability to reduce dental caries in children. Many brands of chewing gum containing xylitol are now available in the market.
Studies have shown that dentists prefer in-office caries prevention methods such as in-office fluoride and dental sealants in children much more than for adults.
Although the application of various caries prevention agents has been proven effective, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautions that a complete preventive dental program for kids should include fluoride, twice-daily brushing, wise food choices, and regular dental care.
Young children are particularly vulnerable to caries because their teeth are still erupting, their oral cavity is being colonized, immune system is developing and because breast feeding may have been discontinued. Scientists believe that these factors together present a window of infectivity that may pave way to a human vaccine for caries.
More information on caries and prevention
Read more about dental caries and prevention in our article on What Methods Do Dentists Use for Preventing Dental Caries in Children?
You can also find many articles on dental care basics and about oral and dental health of babies, kids and teens in the Oral and Dental Health section on