Cavities in kids are not uncommon so it is easy to blow them off as ‘just another cavity,’ but tooth decay even in baby teeth shouldn’t be ignored.
Tooth decay can also cause pain that can be distracting and affect your child’s day-to-day activities. It can change the way children eat and drink, which affects how they are able to take in nutrients. Dental cavities can also affect a child’s speech, sleeping habits, and even ability to pay attention during school.
Children also miss school due to appointments to fix tooth decay. In fact, every year more than 34 million school hours are sacrificed each year to treat dental problems in kids. In addition, parents have to take time off of work to go to their child’s appointments, and the cost of treating tooth decay can be costly.
How can you keep your child’s mouth cavity-free? Follow the 4 simple tips in this article to keep decay at bay.
Routine Dental Care
Healthy teeth start from a daily routine, which means brushing twice daily. Ideally brushing should happen after breakfast and before bed.
If your child is too young to learn proper brushing habits you should clean their teeth for them. It is recommended for parents to help brush their children’s teeth up to the age of 8. After your child’s teeth start coming in, it is recommended to brush their teeth twice daily. For children under 3 years old, a rice-sized amount or smear of fluoride toothpaste is recommended. Using no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is appropriate for children 3-6 years old.
According to the American Dental Association, once your child has two teeth that are touching each other. It is time to start cleaning their teeth daily. Once old enough, brushing your child’s teeth twice a day is a golden rule to follow for maximum effect. Make sure to give kids encouragement. Parents and caregivers face many challenges and sometimes the battle of helping children brush their teeth feels too overwhelming to handle. Encourage them to keep their chin up and to keep trying because good oral health at a young age can translate to good habits for the rest of their lives!
Soft-bristled brushes and fluoride toothpaste are the best ways to keep little teeth clean and healthy.
Flossing should be introduced into your child’s dental care routine when you are no longer able to clean between teeth with brushing alone. This is when the back baby teeth begin to get closer together. It is recommended for parents to floss their child’s teeth until they reach the age of 10.
Fluoride prevents cavities and can slow or even reverse decay. A great source of fluoride is actually water supplemented with fluoride. However, if you don’t have access to fluoridated water, talk to your child’s dentist for recommendations on how to provide them with adequate fluoride.
They may recommend a fluoride supplement to ensure that their teeth are fully protected.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in water that helps combat tooth decay, and can even revitalize them to a certain extent due to its demineralizing effects. Along with this it also strengthens the enamel, prevents cavities, and lessens the damage of plaque on teeth. Fluoride is added to water sources and toothpaste due to these perks.
Fluoride is safe as long as you don’t go too far over the correct dosage which depends on the age of your child. You should start giving them toothpaste when they reach about 6 months old or when their teeth start erupting.
- If your child is under the age of 3, it is highly recommended to only use about a grain of rice sized blob of toothpaste to brush. This is the largest amount that is safe if swallowed.
- For ages 3-6 you can move up to about a pea-sized shape of toothpaste. Older children and adults can use any amount of toothpaste as long as they do not swallow large amounts.
Talk to your dentist about the best fluoride options for your child.
When sealants are applied to teeth, they are effective up to 86% in preventing cavities after a year and 58% after four years.
In fact, as long as sealants have the proper care they can last nearly a decade at preventing decay. Sealant application is also about half the cost of a filling, making them a safe investment in your child’s mouth.
The American Dental Association recommends dental sealants for everyone, including kids. Your child’s first molars will appear around the age of 6 and second molars break through around age 12. It’s important to protect these teeth as early as possible which can keep them cavity-free and save time and money down the road. Research has shown that kids who get sealants are up to three times less likely to develop tooth decay compared to their peers who do not. Great oral hygiene for your child can even have an impact on your child’s performance in school. When a child experiences issues with their teeth this can affect their ability to eat and sleep, which can have negative impacts on their success in school. Although there is maintenance required as sealants aren’t permanent, they only need to be reapplied every 3-5 years.
Given the safety and the overall benefits of dental sealants, we recommend talking with one of our dentists about whether sealants are right for your child. Children work hard to learn how to brush well, but even adults sometimes miss critical areas of the mouth. Sealants have the potential to save a lot of headaches and help to promote a lifetime of excellent oral hygiene.
Regular Dental Visits
It is an essential part of your child’s dental care for them to be seen by a pediatric dentist.
Unfortunately, most children don’t see the dentist for the first time until well after they’re two years old. Many kids’ first dentist experience doesn’t happen until far later. The American Dental Association recommends that your children should first visit the dentist’s office when their first tooth forms and begins to poke through the gums.
The impacts of starting your children on a path to proper oral health are staggering and can lead to a lifetime of good habits that impact more than just their teeth.
A dental x-ray is a very safe tool available to help diagnose oral health issues that would otherwise go unseen until they become larger problems. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AADP) recommends performing dental x-rays on children based on each patient’s needs and not just age alone. According to the AADP, dental x-rays for children are recommended based on the following conditions:
- History of cavities or tooth decay
- Pain in the mouth or teeth
- Gum disease
- Bleeding in the gums or mouth
- Loose teeth
- Abnormal tooth eruption, color, or other conditions
- Swelling in the gums or mouth
From time to time we hear a few concerns from parents about dental x-rays, and the truth is that there is a very minimal amount of radiation that comes from them. We try to explain the risks of not having a dental x-ray and leaving unseen problems with a child’s oral health to worsen is more detrimental than the very small amount of radiation received from an x-ray.
This allows them to keep up with teeth cleanings, fluoride treatment, and sealants. A pediatric dentist is able to monitor your child for any additional support they may require for optimal oral health or if there will be a need for orthodontic treatments.