Preventing Tooth Decay In Children
Tooth decay in children is a common problem, with over a quarter of preschool-aged children in the United States having a cavity, according to Colgate. It's important to help your child develop good oral hygiene habits early to prevent tooth decay. Even tooth decay in baby teeth is problematic since it can lead to early tooth loss, which may cause the teeth to shift and can even cause orthodontic issues or jaw problems, such as TMJ, down the road.
Poor diet is one of the most common reasons for tooth decay in children. Many young kids are picky eaters and gravitate toward sugary foods and drinks, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates. These foods are a huge draw for the bacteria that cause decay and cavities. While you don't have to completely eliminate these kinds of foods from your child's diet, it's best to save them as an occasional treat, not an everyday staple. Make sure your child tries plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources. If your child doesn't care for a particular food, try reintroducing it several weeks later. Children's taste buds are constantly changing, and you may find your child starting to enjoy a food that they previously avoided.
Proper oral hygiene is a habit that should start at birth. In young babies, using a damp washcloth to wash the gums is sufficient. Don't send your baby to bed with a bottle. Having milk or juice resting on the teeth all night greatly increases the risk of decay. Older toddlers and children can have water in bed if they need a drink.
Start brushing your child's teeth at least twice daily as soon as the first tooth comes in. Children under 3 years old shouldn't use too much fluoride toothpaste. A proper amount is typically about the size of a grain of rice. After their third birthday, they can start using a pea-sized amount. You'll probably need to help your child brush properly until at least age 6 or 7. Model good brushing habits and work with your child on how to make sure every part of each tooth's surface gets brushed thoroughly. Set up a timer in the bathroom to make sure your child is brushing for at least 2 to 3 minutes.
Tooth Decay Symptoms
Keep a close watch on your child's teeth to catch any signs of decay early. The first indicator is usually white spots that form on the teeth from the enamel beginning to break down. Visible cavities start off light brown in color and change to darker brown or black as they get deeper.
Your child may also complain of pain or sensitivity to certain temperatures and textures. Don't rely on those symptoms to warn you that your child has a problem, however. Many cavities don't cause symptoms at all and aren't detected until a dentist takes a look.
One of the most important things you can do to protect your child's teeth is to make sure they visit a pediatric dentist at least once every 6 months for an examination and cleaning. Ask about fluoride treatments and sealants to decrease the risk of decay and cavities.
For more information, contact a pediatric dentist.