A number of my friends are dental missionaries and visit countries where problems from dental disease are intense. They see adults with many lost teeth and visible tooth damage that can be overwhelming. These dentists provide emergency extractions and care, but wish they could offer long-term help. Some take toothbrushes while others teach nurses to apply fluoride varnish. Any concept must be simple and sustainable since complicated or costly programs will not continue after the team leaves. All this effort is admirable, but we have a gigantic problem, and need ideas that will work for every community around the globe.
Awful statistics that tell us that here the U.S., there is an epidemic of decay in preschool children and 90% of older adults have decayed, missing, or filled teeth. Of course we usually don’t see these problems because they are masked by skillful dentistry. Imagine if we took off the veneers, crowns, fillings, bridges, implants and dentures. We would be shocked by the horrific damage this progressive disease can cause in sixty years. This is not just a problem for distant countries, but something we must all consider. I believe 5 simple steps can help children grow up cavity free, anywhere on the globe.
This preventive strategy is split into 3 categories. Each will make a difference, but when used in harmony will give greater results. The concept is to prevent initial transmission of infection, promote healthy bacteria to protect teeth, and apply topical fluoride to strengthen new erupting adult teeth.
1) Prevent mother-child transfer of cavity bacteria
2) Limit infection from toothbrushes or promote other methods of care
3) As teeth erupt
4) During preschool years
5) On erupting permanent molars
1. Prevent Mother-Child Transfer of Cavity Bacteria
Regular use of xylitol reduces harmful bacteria and cultivates healthier ones in the mouth. Mothers are usually the carriers of dental infection that transfers from their mouth to their baby’s teeth. Studies show that mothers who consume 5 grams of xylitol daily, during the first years of their baby’s life (as baby teeth erupt) will reduce the chance of decay in their child’s teeth by 80%.
2. Limit infection from toothbrushes by promoting other methods of care
Toothbrushes are infected by a single use, and dirty toothbrushes spread infection. Brushing adult teeth can improve gum health, but not if brushes are infected. Let’s promote brush hygiene and, when appropriate, consider locally available tools, like chew sticks. The Miswak is recognized in many parts of the world as an effective tooth-cleaning device. This chew stick contains fluoride, silica, and resins to help teeth. A chew stick can massage gums and be discarded, or the end of the stick cut off to prevent re-infection at the next use.
3. Promote healthy bacteria as teeth erupt – with xylitol
A pound of xylitol is relatively inexpensive and these granules can be dissolved in water to wipe on erupting baby teeth. Studies show this can lower decay by 90%. This form of prevention is most effective before baby molars erupt (at 18 months). Xylitol promotes good bacteria in molar grooves, where they become reservoirs of bacteria to dominate the mouth. Children with healthy baby molars are more likely to have healthy adult molars.
4. Promote healthy bacteria during preschool years – with xylitol
Regular use of xylitol will help promote healthy bacteria in a child’s mouth. As children eat xylitol candies, like Zellie’s Polar Bears, they ensure their mouths have healthy bacteria before adult teeth erupt during Kindergarten years.
5. Apply fluoride varnish on erupting permanent molars
Fluoride is last on this list because it has no power to adjust or promote healthy bacteria. Topical fluoride can, however, help strengthen enamel. Even healthy adult molars are soft as they erupt, and at risk for cavities. To give protection, a coat of fluoride varnish will encourage minerals to harden new molar teeth.
Download our latest guidebooks for Ultimate Oral Health:
For more information on oral health and xylitol, please visit all of Dr. Ellie’s web-sites:
Zellies.com – learn more & order Zellies Xylitol Mints, Gum and Candies
Dr. Ellie.com – a great resource for learning more about oral health & Dr. Ellie
Dr. E Oral Health Coaching – articles, resources and videos to help you learn more
Join the conversation online on the Zellies Facebook page!