Is it really important to take care of baby teeth?
Many parents in Falls Church question this. Assuming since a child’s primary teeth will eventually fall out, getting a cavity or needing an early extraction due to advanced decay isn’t a big deal.
The reality is, though, decay in toddlers can and should be prevented.
What causes decay in children? And what can you do to prevent your child from getting cavities?
Some of the Most Common Causes of Tooth Decay in Toddlers
We’re all at risk for decay. However, children are more at risk for a number of reasons.
First of all, at such a young age, they don’t have the ability to care for their teeth on their own. They have to rely on their parent or caretaker.
Second, children are at risk for decay because parents often don’t know about conditions like baby bottle tooth decay until it’s too late.
Third, while candy and other sweets are tempting to all of us, children don’t have quite as much self-control as adults when it comes to resisting sweet temptations.
How do these things lead to decay?
Decay is caused by bacteria in the mouth. Whenever we eat something with sugars – particularly simple carbohydrates like cake, candy, soda, and cookies – the bacteria in our mouths breaks down the sugar and forms an acid.
If the teeth aren’t brushed after eating these foods, the acid attacks the tooth enamel and causes a cavity.
A simple cavity is easy to fix with a filling. But if the decay is left unattended, the result could be decay which causes pain and results in needing to extract the tooth prematurely.
Removing a tooth before it’s supposed to come out can throw off a child’s bite. This can lead to shifting and crooked teeth and even make it difficult for the adult teeth to come in properly.
Another area of concern is infection. Decay, if left untreated, could lead to an infection – and could make your toddler very sick.
What Parents Can Do: 3 Steps to Prevent Childhood Tooth Decay
We’re sure you’ll agree – as parents, we want to do all we can to not only treat early decay, but prevent it if at all possible.
Here are just a few steps you can take to protect your child from decay.
1. Start Dental Home Care at an Early Age
When should you start caring for your child’s oral health? And when should you start teaching them how to brush and floss.
The answer is simple, as soon as possible.
Yes, this means we should start before our children even have any teeth.
After the child eats or drinks, gently wipe their gums with a damp washcloth.
When the baby teeth start to show themselves, invest in a child-sized toothbrush and brush those pearly whites after every meal. If you’re unable to do this, try to brush at least twice a day, particularly at night before they go to bed.
And as soon as their teeth start to touch, start flossing their teeth.
2. Don’t Put Your Child to Bed with a Bottle
This is a tough one. Bottles with warm milk often help our babies doze off to sleep.
However, this leads to baby bottle tooth decay.
It doesn’t take long for the bacteria and acid to start attacking the teeth. Many babies put to bed with their bottle end up with rampant decay.
If your child can’t sleep without their bottle, make sure you avoid milk, formula, or juice. Just stick with water.
3. Monitor Your Child’s Sugar Intake
Sugary foods are the number one cause of decay.
Limit the amount of candy, juice, and other sugary foods your child eats.
But the danger doesn’t stop there.
Limit dried fruit (it can stick in the teeth and cause cavities) and juices as well. If you do give fruit and juice to your child, try to limit the amount and brush or rinse after eating/drinking them.
Regular Visits to a Pediatric Dentist – an Important Part of the Puzzle
As a parent, you play an important role in preventing childhood tooth decay. However, you’re not alone.
Our pediatric dental office is here to help.
With regular visits to our pediatric dental office, you can show your child from a very early age just how important it is to see their dentist.
Each time your child comes in for a visit, we will do a complete exam, clean their teeth, and show them how to take care of their teeth at home.
Together, we can show your child the importance of consistent dental home care practices and protect them from childhood decay.
To learn more about preventing tooth decay in your child, contact us today for an appointment.