Did you know that the most common disease among children and teens is tooth decay? Worse than that, the CDC reports that nearly 20% of children’s cavities are left untreated. As parents, we understand how hard it is to keep your child accountable for menial tasks like brushing teeth, but the fact is these habits are necessary for preventing harmful, painful cavities. To keep your kids cavity-free, here are 6 steps you can start implementing early on.
Visit the pediatric dentist by age one.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, parents should find their child a dental home at the emergence of the first tooth or by age one, whichever comes first. This allows the dentist to establish a trusting relationship with the patient early on and being a pattern of regular visits. Oftentimes, many children’s first visit to the pediatric dentist is scheduled because a problem already exists. This can lead to dental anxiety, especially if the child has been exposed to media that portrays the dentist negative.
Take advantage of sealants or composite fillings.
Sealants are the most effective, yet most underrated ways of preventing cavities. A dental sealant is a temporary, thin plastic coating that is “painted” on the outer enamel of teeth to create a barrier between the bacteria and teeth. Composite fillings are can be used as an alternative to sealants by filling deep crevices. They’re most commonly used for the molar teeth because those are harder to clean, making them prone to cavities.
Never put your baby to sleep with anything other than water.
Baby bottle tooth decay is pervasive and occurs when the sugars from liquids such as juice or milk are allowed to coat an infant’s teeth for extended periods of time. Parents often allow their children to fall asleep drinking from a bottle before naps or bed time when the natural flow of saliva is decreased. If your child is a fussy sleeper, you can still allow them to use a bottle as long as it’s only filled with water. Though baby teeth are temporary, maintaining them is essential to the proper formation and alignment of emerging adult teeth beneath the surface.
Limit consumption of sticky, chewy foods.
Sweets like caramel and taffy can stick to the teeth long after kids eat them, giving bacteria ample time to feed off them and ruin the teeth. Candy, however, isn’t the only food that needs to be moderated. Starchy foods, such as potatoes and crackers, can easily get stuck in the nooks and crannies of the teeth. Without proper cleaning, these foods provide sugar to bacteria that feed off it, multiply, and attack enamel. Without regulation, these high sugar foods can lead to tooth decay, so they should be limited for special occasions.
Begin good dental habits early.
Oral care begins even before teeth appear. Parents can use a soft cloth to clean their baby’s gums to limit bacteria and protect emerging teeth. Young children can use kids’ brushes, which are smaller and softer for little mouths. The pediatric dentist recommends using just a pea-sized amount of toothpaste for children in case they have a problem not swallowing the foam.
Practice good dental habits.
The most effective way to keep your children cavity free is by practicing good dental habits, too. Children learn from their parents, so if they see you taking good care of your teeth, they’ll want to as well! Do they see you brush? Are you flossing daily? Kids notice how their parents behave and they’re likely to emulate your actions. Teach your children how to keep up a great oral hygiene routine first hand by showing them how much you value your own oral health.