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Protective Factors

Course Author(s): American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

Protective Factors

The most studied factors that are protective of dental caries include systemic and topical fluoride, sugar substitutes, and tooth brushing with fluoridated toothpaste. A dental home providing regular care and prevention is included as a protective factor in many caries-risk assessment models.

  1. Fluoride
    Using fluoride for the prevention and control of decay is proven to be both safe and effective. Caries risk assessment should include the dosage and frequency of fluoride exposure from various sources such as water, dietary supplements, rinses, toothpastes and other dietary sources of fluoride like beverages and processed food. The primary water source (which may not be the child's home) should be identified and assessed for fluoride. Professional topical fluoride applications performed semiannually reduce caries risk.
  2. Oral Hygiene
    At home oral hygiene and plaque control remain essential elements for oral health. Children’s teeth should be brushed twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush. Flossing may be useful for plaque removal in areas difficult to access with a toothbrush.
  3. Additional At-home Preventive Measures
    Sugar substitutes can help decrease a child’s risk for caries. Topical fluoride rinses may be helpful but require good compliance and the ability to control the rinse and not swallow.
  4. Dental Home
    The dental home (regular periodic care by the same practitioner) benefits oral health through an emphasis on prevention and early intervention. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association recommend establishment of a dental home by a child’s first birthday.