Tooth decay and cavities affect not only adults but also our children – and from a very early age. So to keep your kids smile happy and healthy, make sure you keep their teeth properly cleaned and flossed and include regular dental visits to reduce the likelihood of later treatments and unexpected costs.
You may think your children will always have strong, healthy teeth but recent reports are showing tooth decay occurring at an earlier age than ever before, and the importance of teaching your children how they can have good oral health habits to last them a lifetime.
The incidence of tooth decay is occurring at an earlier age for children and even toddlers with international (and local) reports revealing children developing cavities in their primary teeth from ages 2 and up, according to USA’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
The National Institute’s research is a concern for parents because 42 percent of children ages 2 to 11 develop a cavity in their primary (AKA milk or baby) teeth, in addition surveys which have identified that more than 40% of 2-4-years-old are not being seen by a dental professional and 44% of 5-years-old have at least one decayed, missing or filled tooth.
What Are The Causes of Tooth Decay in Toddlers?
In toddlers, tooth decay begins in the mouth as bacteria begin to eat away the primary teeth. A common cause of toddler tooth decay occurs when your child goes to bed with a bottle (AKA baby bottle tooth decay). When milk or juice from the bottle sits in your child’s mouth overnight it provides an ideal environment for breeding bacteria.
Unhealthy eating habits such as children sucking on sweets for prolonged periods or eating a lot of sugary foods can also contribute to tooth decay along with poor oral hygiene.
How Can I Prevent Tooth Decay in My Toddler?
To prevent tooth decay in toddlers, never allow your child go to sleep with a bottle or a sipping cup of milk or juice. If you provide your child a drink before bed or to sleep, use only water. Dental experts recommend that if your children do drink milk or sugary drinks, they should be consumed quickly instead of sipping them slowly (to reduce the exposure time of teeth to decay-causing sugars from the drinks in a bottle or sipping cup).
Be sure to floss daily and brush your child’s teeth twice daily (avoiding sugary foods where possible). Highly acid foods, (eg. cola) or fruit juice, literally dissolve the enamel and subsequently make your child’s teeth more susceptible to cavities.
Brush your toddler’s teeth at least twice daily after eating sweets (or other foods) with a with a soft-bristled brush, but make sure fluoride toothpaste is only used when your child is capable of spitting it out without swallowing it. To brush baby teeth correctly, either you or your child should hold the brush at a 45-degree angle, with gentle strokes covering the entire tooth surface for at least 2 minutes.
Treating Tooth Decay in Toddlers
If your child does develop tooth decay, to prevent the bacteria from spreading, dental work will be required (fillings to correct smaller cavities or a full crown if the damage is extensive). A tooth with decay throughout may require extraction to prevent the bacteria spreading to other teeth. If the decay is severe in primary teeth, pitting or staining in the secondary (adult) teeth can occur.
The habits you start early for your child’s baby and adult teeth are important for long-term oral hygiene and health. Although your toddler’s teeth will fall out, don’t ignore their care. For a healthy smile throughout their lifetime, make sure your children are protected from cavities at an early age. Contact us now to discuss your children’s dental health and how we can help.