When you think about the most common infectious disease in children, tooth decay probably isn’t what comes to mind first. However, almost half of children in the United States have it. Tooth decay in kids is responsible for the loss of over 51 million hours of school.
Cavities are one of the most common dental problems in toddlers and children. Also referred to as tooth decay, a cavity is a permanently damaged area in a tooth. They can develop in your child’s primary or baby teeth, and if so, you might shrug it off — your child will eventually lose these teeth, right? So what does it matter? But you shouldn’t ignore a cavity.
Here’s what you need to know about cavities in kids, including common causes, treatment options, and prevention tips.
What causes cavities in kids?
Cavities occur when a buildup of dental plaque eats at tooth enamel and causes a hole. Plaque is a sticky substance that covers teeth, and it forms when bacteria in the mouth combines with food, acid, and saliva. Since regular brushing and flossing can prevent a buildup of plaque, cavities often develop when children don’t properly brush their teeth. Children should brush their teeth for at least 2 minutes twice a day. Yet, some children only brush once a day. Or worse, they forget to brush entirely. Children are unable brush well by themselves until they’re around 6 years old. It’s important that an adult brushes for a child, or supervises their brushing, until they’re old enough to do a thorough job. Also, some children don’t floss their teeth or they floss incorrectly. Cavities can also develop when plaque and food particles aren’t removed from in between teeth. Flossing can be very hard for kids, so again parents need to help with this important step.
Remember, too, that good dental hygiene includes regular dental checkups. The same way adults see a dentist every 6 months, you should make dental appointments for your children. Since baby teeth typically erupt around 6 months old, schedule your child’s first dental visit shortly after their first tooth becomes visible. But, of course, poor dental hygiene isn’t the only cause of cavities — diet also plays a role. So there’s a higher risk for tooth decay if your child eats a lot of sweet, sugary or even starchy foods that are high in carbohydrates (ice cream, cakes, candy, crackers, chips, etc).
So what are the best strategies to prevent tooth decay? Here are our be tips.
Tips to Prevent Tooth Decay in Kids
- Create a tooth brushing routine: Children respond positively to the creation of routines. A child who gets in the habit of brushing will carry that forward into adolescence and beyond. Children may initially resist, but most will eventually concede to the routine with consistent reinforcement.
- Help kids ages eight years old and younger brush their teeth, but supervise until age 11: The eight year marker is approximate, but until children are able to tie their own shoes, they don’t have the skills to brush their own teeth. By helping, parents can ensure that no food is left behind, which can lead to cavities. Even after children are able to brush their own teeth, parents should be supervising to ensure children are doing a good job.
- Visit the dentist regularly: Children’s dentist appointments are just as imperative as adult’s. We will reinforce that oral health is a critical part of overall health, as well as check for early signs of tooth decay. We’ll also give parents strategies for taking care of their children’s teeth, and issues like dental trauma and snacking.
- Brush with fluoride: Buy toothpaste with fluoride for children two years old and up. Follow the recommended amount on the packaging – and then don’t rinse! Have your children simply spit out the excess toothpaste. This will allow the fluoride to stay on their teeth, adding extra protection. Our Beaufort SC dentist may recommend starting fluoride toothpaste for kids younger than two, but will give you specific instructions.
- Limit sugar intake: The amount of sugar that is in kids’ drinks and diets directly relates to the rise in tooth decay. If you have questions about what nutrition your children need, their doctor is the best place to start.
- Model good behavior: One of the best things parents can do for their kids’ oral health is to take care of their own! Seeing a parent value their teeth reinforces its importance. Make it a family event – let children see how the whole family doesn’t go to bed until teeth are brushed.
Tooth decay can lead to nights of pain, poor school performance and in some children, behavioral issues. Following the above tips can help children avoid infection, the loss of a tooth and even hospital admissions due to cavities.
Adult & Children’s Dentistry in One Location
If you’re searching for a Lady’s Island family dentist, Lowcountry Family Dentistry is always accepting great new patients. Call us at 843-986-0177 or schedule an appointment online to learn more about how our dental team can offer care for your entire family.