Prevention of Tooth Decay in Children

Some parents assume that baby teeth don’t matter, because they fall out. This misconception is harmful, because healthy baby teeth are linked to a wide array of other important developmental milestones such as fostering good nutrition through proper chewing, aiding in the development of speech and saving space in the jaw that is needed for adult teeth (i.e. permanent teeth).

Many dentists recommend making an appointment for your child as soon as their first tooth appears and at no later than 12 months. This is because the importance of preventing tooth decay in children cannot be underestimated. The facts, figures, challenges and best practices outlined below will help you to understand why.

Facts and Figures Related to Tooth Decay in Children

  • The U.S. Surgeon General recognizes oral health as “critical to overall well-being.”
  • Early childhood cavities are known as caries. Caries are caused by the process of tooth decay, which is the result of an infection with certain types of bacteria that use sugar to make acids.
  • One of the first signs of tooth decay is a white spot on the tooth.
  • More than 40% of children have cavities by the time they are in kindergarten.
  • Cavities are five times more common than asthma among children, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “Healthy People 2010” report.
  • More than 50% of all children have cavities by the second grade.
  • The process of tooth decay can be reversed.
  • The top causes of tooth decay in children are: putting baby to bed with a bottle, high-sugar fruit juices and candies and inadequate tooth brushing.

Challenges of Preventing Childhood Tooth Decay

A few of the challenges parents face when trying to prevent childhood tooth decay can seem daunting at first. The challenges, however, can be overcome with knowledge and perseverance.

  • Breaking bad habits. Weaning a child from taking a bottle to bed, for example, can be difficult. Instead of putting baby to bed with a bottle, give her a bottle and then brush her teeth before going to sleep. This might require an adjustment to her bedtime routine as she will need more comforting to fall asleep, but it will help prevent tooth decay from the sugar in the milk.
  • Establishing and maintaining a healthy diet. Your child’s diet is very important to preventing tooth decay. Avoid sugary snacks that stick to teeth as well as fruit juice. Fruit juice is not part of a healthy diet and it should be avoided.
  • Following a healthy mouth care routine. Your child may struggle at first with brushing his teeth, but you need to persist with establishing a routine that works well for both you and him. Brushing his teeth can be fun thanks to songs, games and watching you brush your own teeth. Ask your dentist how to make toothbrushing a fun activity and something he looks forward to.

Best Practices to Prevent Tooth Decay in Children

  • Monitor your child’s diet. Remember that sugars and starches are causing our mouths to produce acids that eat away at tooth enamel. Children usually eat frequently throughout the day, which can cause the acid to eat away at the minerals and cause a cavity. Make healthy choices for what your child eats and how often.
  • Tooth-friendly tips:
    • Limit snacks whenever possible. This reduces the number of acid attacks on teeth.
    • Avoid candy, cookies, fruit juice and soda unless it’s a special occasion.
    • Do not feed your child anything with sugar after brushing his teeth before bed. Saliva production decreases at bedtime, which can make his teeth prime targets for caries.
  • Brush your child’s teeth. After discussing with your dentist, use a fluoride toothpaste to brush the teeth at least twice a day. Supervise your child at brushing time and encourage him to spit out the toothpaste after brushing. Until your child is seven or eight, brush your child’s teeth first and let him finish.
  • Visit the dentist. Contact us to make your child’s first dental appointment. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about caring for your child’s teeth and will help make dental care a healthy and fun part of your child’s life.

Topics: children's health | tooth decay | dental health | preventative health care

Posted In: Pediatric Dental Care