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Preventive dental care is important throughout a patient’s entire life, but it is extremely important that they start at a young age. By practicing good oral hygiene from the very beginning and scheduling regular checkups with the dentist, your child can help keep their teeth healthy for many years to come. Tooth decay is an huge issue that typically affects adults, but is also one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in children. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 42 percent of children aged two to eleven have had cavities before. Thankfully, cavities in children can be easily prevented by following these steps!

Start Early

“Prevention is key” is a phrase that everyone has heard in regards to their health, and this is no different in children’s oral health. Before a child begins to grow his or her first teeth, it is important to use a damp washcloth to cleanse a baby’s gums after each feeding. When teeth start erupting, you can brush your baby’s teeth with a very soft brush and water. Along with brushing twice a day, flossing once a day is vital to prevent plaque buildup in between the teeth. At the right age, it is important to use fluoride toothpaste to remove food particles and plaque from the teeth. It is also important to teach your child to brush their tongue, as this prevents bacteria build-up and bad breath. As a last step, using mouthwash can further kill bad breath causing bacteria as well as removing any other bacteria that may linger in between teeth. Passing this knowledge onto your child early on can go a long way in how their oral health plays out in the future.

Avoid Sugary Foods

A big reason why tooth decay happens is because of the foods children eat and the ingredients in those foods. Meals that have high sugar and acid content are the most corrosive to teeth because they wear down enamel over time. When we eat sugary foods, within 20 minutes the production of acid begins and starts to dissolve tooth enamel. You need to ensure your child is eating a balanced diet that is full of vegetables, cheese, fruit, and unprocessed foods. To prevent their enamel from quickly dissolving, brushing a child’s teeth immediately after eating can prevent the decay of enamel.

A simple rule of thumb to keep in mind is to only give your child milk and water and to give sugary drinks every once in a while. Choosing to give your child milk is a good decision because it contains an ingredient called casein that helps to build up tooth enamel. It is also smart to also avoid giving your child any drink besides water before bedtime to prevent any tooth decay while they sleep. If you want to give them a different beverage before they go to bed, remember to brush their teeth after to remove any plaque buildup or sugar from the tooth surface. Teaching your child to understand why avoiding these drinks is important, so they are able to see how it can benefit them.

Use Fluoride Daily

Fluoride is used to help strengthen tooth enamel as well as help teeth resist acids that typically cause tooth decay. It can also help reduce the risk of cavities and in some cases even reverse early tooth decay. Luckily, our water also has fluoride in it which can help keep teeth healthy. Make sure that the water you are drinking has some fluoride in it, especially if you are giving it to your children to drink. Be sure to check with their pediatric dentist to see if your child is ready to be given toothpaste that contains fluoride. Although you must wait to give a child toothpaste with fluoride, the water is okay to drink at any age. Fluoride comes from many different sources such as: water, toothpastes, mouthwash, supplements, and dental treatments. Once a child is ready to begin using fluoride, their oral health can improve drastically. It is important to use only the recommended amount of toothpaste while brushing because overuse of fluoride can cause white spots on the surface of the teeth. Fluoride treatments are also offered for children, to strengthen the surface of their teeth even further.

Teach Your Child to Drink From a Cup

When a child drinks from a sippy cup, that beverage collects at the front of the mouth. If the child is drinking only water or milk, this is not an issue, but if they are drinking juices, it is. If an overly sugary drink collects at the front teeth, those teeth can be more prone to cavities and enamel decay. It is best to teach your child to learn how to use a normal cup as soon as possible to prevent this issue. Using a normal cup also prevents them from taking it to bed and consuming any sugary drinks.

Visit the Dentist Early On

Everyone knows that prevention is key, and that statement is no stranger when it comes to visiting the dentist! A good rule to go by is taking your baby to visit the dentist before they are a year old. Another rule to keep in mind is to take your child after their first tooth erupts, which can sometimes be at around six months old. If your child has teeth, that means they are able to get cavities no matter how young they are. Taking them to the dentist early can familiarize your child with the dentist and give you the opportunity to ask questions about their oral health. As your child gets older, it is important to continue to schedule regular appointments to prevent any future dental issues. You should be taking your child to the dentist around every six months for regular cleanings and checkups.

Caring for Teething

When a child’s baby teeth grow in, this is their first set of teeth and typically after they fall out, the permanent teeth begin to grow in. When a child’s baby teeth are growing in, your child will experience a lot of discomfort and will begin to produce more saliva than usual. It is important to avoid applying any type of numbing gel that contains benzocaine as it can cause a serious condition called methemoglobinemia which can prevent the release of oxygen in the body. It is also best to avoid any teething rings that contain gel or liquid because the sharpness of baby teeth can puncture the plastic, releasing chemicals into the child’s body. Breast milk can also soothe a child’s gums in their teething stage.

Ask About Dental Sealants

Dental sealants are another great method of avoiding cavities. The sealant paints a thin, plastic coating onto the front and back surfaces of the teeth. The chewing surfaces of our teeth are filled with grooves and pits, where bacteria can get stuck in. Children are often not able to reach into these grooves with their toothbrushes, making this method helpful for them. Sealants ultimately prevent cavities in the long run because brushing teeth becomes much easier. Ask our pediatric dentist, Dr. Sarah, if dental sealants are a good idea for your child!