To help prevent cavities in children, parents must know how cavities form, what behaviors raise the risk of cavity formation and what actionable steps they can take to minimize dental issues as their children grow older.
What Is a Cavity?
When teeth are not regularly and thoroughly cleaned, bacteria-rich plaque builds up on the surfaces. When food and drink are consumed, the sugar in these substances reacts with plaque bacteria and creates acid, which eats away at the protective enamel on teeth, leaving them vulnerable to infection, or a cavity. Cavities develop in three locations: on top, in between, or at the roots of teeth.
Eating and Drinking Habits
One of the most important methods of cavity prevention is regulating sugary substances. Whenever possible, restrict candy and soda consumption. Parents should introduce natural foods like carrot sticks, grapes and apples for snacks. When a child is thirsty, water should be the main beverage choice.
It’s not only essential to examine what the child is eating, but when. Frequent snacking throughout the day is detrimental, as the teeth are constantly exposed to sugar. The majority of food intake should occur at mealtimes, and children should drink water after food consumption to wash away traces of sugar and starch. Parents should never let a child fall asleep with a bottle or sippy cup. Formula, milk and juice will coat the teeth and remain throughout the night, allowing acid to form and decimate the enamel.
Oral Care Routines
Before teeth erupt, parents can rub a baby’s gums with a clean, wet washcloth after feedings to cleanse the area. As teeth begin to come through, parents can clean them using a soft-bristled toothbrush with a miniscule dot of infant toothpaste twice per day.
Between the ages of 2 and 5, the child should continue to have twice-a-day cleanings with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. Parents should continue to administer a tiny smear of toothpaste until the child learns to spit used toothpaste in the sink. At this age, teeth will begin to fit more snugly together as additional teeth break through the gums. When teeth begin touching, parents should start flossing the child’s teeth at least once a day.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends scheduling a child’s first dental checkup at the age of 1. Going forward, it’s suggested that children visit the dentist once every six months to maintain quality dental health.
Consult your trusted dentist as soon as you spot any signs of tooth decay, or if your child has cavities. Contact Oak Hills Dentistry for more information on how to prevent cavities in children and maintain dental health throughout their early years.