Why is it that we get these groups of cavities all at once? Typically it is because the teeth grew into the mouth in groups and have lived in the same environment for the same length of time. And now they have all gotten their cavities together too.
Children's second baby molars grow in and move forward to touch the first molars at about age 3. The toothbrush can no longer clean between these teeth, bacteria harbor in the tight space, and the decay process begins. It typically takes 12 to 24 months for this process to penetrate the enamel covering and begin to spread as a cavity inside the tooth. I typically discover these cavities between 5 and 9 years of age. It can happen much earlier. And as you might expect, the cavities are happening to all eight molars at once.
Prevention: If we can disrupt, disorganize and flush the bacteria out of the space between teeth once each 24 hours, they never have time to colonize adequately to do damage. The most efficient way to do that is to floss daily. It is also essential to start flossing early enough to prevent the beginning of the process (usually around age 3, but sooner if the teeth touch).
Halting the process once it has begun: This is harder than prevention, but it is still possible. First and most important is to start flossing. This will prevent any new cavities from starting. If the surface of the tooth is smooth where the cavity has begun, the flossing will clean properly and will probably stop progress. Additionally, using a fluoride toothpaste daily and a fluoride mouthwash (non-prescription from the supermarket) at bedtime (for children who can spit) may remineralize the area and slow progress of the cavity.
Is it too late? If any of the beginning cavities have reached the point that a small, even microscopic, hole has begun, the floss will be unable to clean inside that hole. However, keeping the area around this microscopic cavity clean and re-mineralizing with fluoride toothpaste, and a fluoride mouthwash daily, will dramatically slow the process. You could stall the impending cavity for many years before it becomes large enough to warrant a filling.
The bottom line is that a clean tooth will not decay, no matter what.
If you have any questions about this, please feel comfortable asking any of us. We are dedicated to reducing or eliminating cavities in our practice.