Preventing Tooth Decay in Children
As a parent, you want the best for your child, and that includes their dental health. Although baby teeth are temporary and will eventually be replaced with permanent teeth, it is still essential to keep teeth and gums clean and free of decay.
Some of the reasons why caring for baby teeth is important include:
- Tooth decay may compromise your child’s immune system: Infection and inflammation related to tooth decay are often painful. More importantly, there is a link between oral health and overall health. Maintaining excellent dental care will reduce many related health risks.
- Lost baby teeth may cause orthodontic problems: Some infants and toddlers experience decay so severe, their teeth must be removed. The gaps created by removing baby teeth too early may cause misalignment of their adult teeth.
- It’s never too early to start good oral hygiene: Kids that grow up learning healthy habits are much more likely to continue those habits as they grow older. Make oral hygiene a priority, and your kids will, too.
It is vital to protect your child’s oral health even before their permanent teeth emerge, and it all starts at home.
Practice Healthy Dental Habits
Good dental habits start at a young age. Children begin observing before they start practicing these habits themselves. Be a good example for your child, showing them the importance of brushing twice daily and flossing once per day. If you are not following this routine, it will be hard to convince them to do the same.
You can start brushing your child’s gums before they even have teeth. As soon as your child starts on solids (purees), begin brushing their gums with a soft-bristled toothbrush. You can even let them hold and chew on it if they want.
Once the first teeth erupt, your child will already be used to the concept of brushing. Flossing doesn’t need to start right away, but should still be established early, especially if your child eats foods that easily get caught between their baby teeth.
Talk about what you are doing and why when you brush their teeth. You can even make a game of it, asking them to list what they’ve eaten so you can be sure to “find” and brush it all off.
Encourage a Healthy, Balanced Diet
Sugars are not only bad for your child’s body, but they wreak havoc on their teeth as well. Limit the amount of sugar in your child’s diet, particularly sugary drinks like juice and soda. Sticky foods like caramel, taffy, syrup, and honey should also be limited.
Increase the amount of water-dense fruits and vegetables your child eats. These can help protect your child’s teeth by increasing saliva production. Cheese and nuts are also great acid fighters, which can protect their teeth against decay.
The more water they drink, especially instead of juice or soda, the better. This will also help to create more saliva, a natural protective coating designed to prevent bacteria buildup.
Ask About Sealants
Tooth shape also plays a role in your child’s risk for tooth decay. Even the most diligent parent – the one who starts brushing and flossing from infancy and practices healthy eating habits – can have a child succumb to tooth decay. Deep grooves in the chewing surface of the molars can be hard to clean out, even with regular brushing. Here your dentist can help by placing dental sealants.
Sealants are placed on the first and second molars when these teeth that have not had any prior work or decay. The treatment is painless and requires no drilling or anesthesia. It is a special resin placed on the chewing surface of molars and cured with a light.
Sealants are becoming more popular as a result of their proven effectiveness. More and more insurance companies are starting to cover them, as well. According to the CDC, dental sealants can prevent 80% of cavities within two years of placement and 50% for up to four years. They can continue to protect teeth for up to 9 years after placement.
Visit a Professional Regularly
If you follow all of these precautions and your child still develops tooth decay, don’t be too hard on yourself or them. Some issues are genetic, causing problems no matter how much you brush and floss.
You can reduce the amount of damage that results by addressing small cavities early and recruiting the help of a professional. Schedule your child’s first dental appointment before their first birthday or after the first baby tooth is visible, whichever comes first. By making dental care a priority, you can give your child the best opportunity to keep their smile beautiful throughout their lifetime.