Despite the fact that tooth decay is almost entirely preventable, it is the most common chronic disease in children.
Untreated dental disease can affect a child’s ability to eat well, sleep well, and function well at home and at school. Of course, children need their teeth to eat properly, talk, smile, and feel good about themselves. However, a child with cavities may have difficulty eating, smiling, and may even have problems paying attention and learning at school because of the discomfort and insecurity associated with decaying teeth.
According to the American Dental Association,
- 20% of children aged 5-11 have at least one untreated cavity, and
- 13% of adolescents aged 12-19 have at least one untreated cavity.
- Children miss 51 million hours of school each year because of tooth decay
Most decay cannot be reversed. Unless it is taken care of early on with appropriate treatment and preventative measures, tooth decay can become irreversible and even lead to infection of the teeth and gums and tooth loss.
How to Prevent Cavities
The good news about dental hygiene is that cavities are preventable by practicing good oral hygiene. The practices of oral hygiene listed are easy to do, but it is important to make sure children consistently practice good oral hygiene and begin to initiate it themselves! So, encourage children in their development of good oral hygiene and try to make it fun! Here are some key steps:
- Fluoride varnish. Contact our office to schedule a fluoride treatment for your child. This is a high concentration fluoride coating that can be applied as soon as the first tooth appears and can prevent 33% of cavities in baby teeth.
- Brush daily. Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
- Dental sealants. Dental sealants are a protective coating applied to chewing surfaces on teeth in the back of the mouth and prevent cavities in permanent molars by up to 81% for 2 years.
- Limit snacking. Limit frequent snacking and sugar intake.
- Dental visits. Bring your child in for their first check when their baby teeth start coming in, then twice a year for a cleaning and exam.
Baby teeth are at risk for tooth decay as soon as they appear, so it is important to make sure you schedule a dental visit for your child before age 1. The painful effects of tooth decay could lead to improper eating habits, impacting the child’s overall health and development.
Encourage Dental Hygiene in Your Children
Emphasize the importance of good oral hygiene early on to get them into the habit. Here are some tips to help children enjoy practicing good oral health:
- Allow them to pick out their toothbrush.
- Toothsavers Brushing Game by 2min2x
- Initiate a bedtime routine with a checklist chart.
- Take turns! After you help your child brush their teeth, let them to brush yours.
Avoid These Mistakes
No parent wants their child to have cavities and the majority of us take special care to ensure that each dental visit ends cavity-free. Here are a few simple mistakes that, if corrected, could save children from millions of cavities.
- Not Starting Prevention Early Enough. Many parents wait until children are almost school-age before setting the first dental appointment and before they begin focusing on good oral habits. However, oral care should truly begin before primary teeth even appear. For example, parents can use a soft, damp cloth to clean their baby’s gums after each feeding. Scheduling the first dental appointment should also take place when the first tooth appears or before the age of one, whichever comes first. Finding a dental home early in your child’s life is one of the most important preventative measures you can take for your child’s oral future.
- Baby bottles and Sippy Cups at Bedtime. Even though 80% of parents say they know that children should not be put to bed with a bottle of milk or juice, a surprising number of parents still do just that on a regular basis. Regularly allowing your children’s teeth to be constantly bathed in liquids other than water is one of the most significant contributors of early tooth decay. Even diluting juice with water can give bacteria the sugar they need to thrive inside your child’s mouth.
- Not Teaching Kids to Floss. Most parents do a fantastic job of teaching their kids to brush their teeth (two minutes, twice a day!) But recent studies have shown that 43% of school-aged children have never flossed their teeth…not even once. Brushing alone only reaches a quarter of tooth surfaces and a large number of cavities are actually found where a toothbrush can’t go – between teeth. It is important to floss for young children, who often don’t have the dexterity to floss on their own. Older children should be taught the correct way to floss daily. Here’s a great instructional sheet that provides some guidelines on flossing.
- Thinking Sports Drinks are Better than Sodas. These days, nearly all parents are vigilant about keeping sodas away from their children. But one source of sugar may have simply been replaced by another. Sports drinks often contain just as many calories and sugar as soft drinks. Instead of serving kids sports drinks during sporting events and games, a better option is simply water. The types of activities that kids are involved in are rarely strenuous enough to require anything else.Are you looking for a dental home for your children? Give us a call today at (919) 755-3450. At our family and cosmetic dental practice, we will work together with you to assure your children get a good start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.