When a child is born, most of the parents follow up the pediatrician appointments. However, they fail to pay attention to the child’s oral health needs. Tooth decay is a widespread problem among young children, especially infants. National Institute of Health reported that around 42% of children between the age of 2-11 years suffer from early childhood caries. Additionally, 23% of children in the same age group carry then untreated.
Increase of sugar in the diet is one of the prime reasons for this incidence. Feeding sugar water and sweetened milk make the baby’s mouth more susceptible to bacteria. CDC has cited a 15.2% increase in tooth decay among children under six years of age during the last ten years. With a rapid shift in the culture of minimal parental supervision and convenience food, children are being put at the risk of severe dental ailments.
There are several ways for parents to keep a check on their child’s oral health hygiene. Routine dental check-ups and simple oral healthcare practice can contribute to a healthy, bright smile. Today’s article will highlight the incidence of baby cavities and simple steps that parents can follow to maintain their child’s oral health.
What are baby cavities?
Baby cavities also referred to as early childhood caries, is a dental consequence which results from bad oral habits. Drinking sugary liquids or sweetened milk from a bottle at night is one of the prime cause of early childhood caries. Additionally, a lack of proper dental care can increase the incidence of tooth decay among children. (1)
Some of the signs and symptoms of baby cavities include –
- Severe pain
- Early tooth loss
- A crooked eruption of permanent teeth
- Ear and speech problems (2)
- Decreased appetite
How do baby cavities develop?
Often parents assume that kids get cavities because of their ignorance to brush the teeth properly. Although this is true to an extent, many parents don’t know that dental caries is caused by oral bacteria that feed on sugar or carbohydrate-rich food.
This bacterial growth produces acids that eat away the calcium-rich surface of the teeth leading to tooth decay and cavity formation. Clinical studies have shown that around 4 million pre-schoolers suffer from tooth decay, and the reason is increased sugar intake in their diets from an early age.
If your child has tooth decay, you need to take responsibility for your child’s oral health.
What can you do to prevent cavities?
It is essential to take proper dental care before the baby’s first tooth erupts in the mouth. Prepare yourself by gathering as much information as you can about infant oral health and maintenance.
Follow the steps given below and save your child from tooth decay –
Proper oral care
Oral health care starts with the home dental practice. Encourage your child to learn appropriate toothbrushing techniques. Preventive care is ideal for infant, and it starts right from his birth.
Clean your baby’s gums by using a clean damp washcloth. Children below the age of eight years are unable to remove the plaque efficiently. During this time, the parents can help them to brush and floss regularly. (3)
Say NO to sugar
Cavities are mainly formed by bacteria that feed on sugar and carbohydrate food. Kids can get cavities as early as nine months of age. The upper front teeth are one of the first set of teeth to get affected by tooth decay.
Switch to non-sugary food and drinks. Include fresh fruits and vegetables in your child’s diet. This will make the child healthy and protect the teeth from cavity formation. (4)
Get enough fluoride
Fluoride is one of the essential minerals for teeth. It strengthens the enamel and protects it from acid erosion. Although many places get fluoridated water supply, fluoride toothpaste can add beneficial value to your child’s oral health requirements.
Routine dental check-ups
The ideal time to bring your child for a dental check-up is before one year of age. A dentist will examine the oral tissues and give you a detailed description of your child’s oral health condition. Moreover, dental appointments help to identify early signs of dental problems.
When should you consult a dentist?
American Dental Association suggests that children must see a dentist as early as their first birthday. First dental visits are always about teaching the child and the parents about proper brushing and flossing techniques.
A pediatric dentist is specialized in dealing with children as patients. Moreover, they are trained to handle any patient unco-operation. During the first dental visit, a dentist or a specialist will perform the following tasks –
- Review the medical and dental histories of the child and his family members
- Check all the oral and dental tissues to determine proper growth and development, oral health hygiene, cavities and other dental problems (5)
- Determine the risk factors for tooth decay
- Clean the teeth and formulate a daily oral care routine
- Evaluate the child’s fluoride needs
- Review feeding practices
- Discuss treatment options if required
What are the treatments for baby cavities?
Treatments for childhood tooth decay vary depending on the extent of caries and type of tooth involved. Broadly, baby cavities and tooth decay can be delt by two kinds of approaches –
- Early stages of tooth decay are often limited to the enamel. It appears as a white spot lesion on the surface of the tooth. For such reversible cases, dentists recommend remineralizing treatments like fluoride varnish.
- Extensive carious lesions or large cavities involve the dentin or pulp tissue. For these dental ailments, the treatment usually includes tooth filling or crown replacement.
- Advanced tooth decay may often go for an extraction. However, the dentist will do his best to rule out all other treatment options before concluding the treatment with removal of the tooth.
What are some of the useful oral health habits for children?
Educating children about oral health right from an early age will help them to continue their good habits throughout their life. Here are some of the proper oral health habits you should teach your children –
- Brush your teeth at least two times in a day followed by flossing. Make this habit fun and exciting so that children can enjoy while cleaning their teeth. Additionally, brushing should last for about two minutes. If your child fancies an electric toothbrush, the auto-timer can make this task fun and creative.
- Use themed floss to captivate your child’s interest. You can also make brushing and flossing a group task where all the members of the family follow the same oral routine.
- Regular dental visits at least two times a year are mandatory to keep a check on your child’s oral health. The best time to visit a dentist for the first time is before one year of age. Dental visits not only help to update the parents about their child’s oral condition, but it also positively reinforces the child to enjoy their trip to dental clinics.
- A healthy, nutritious diet is one of the best gifts you can give to your child. Steer your child towards fresh fruits, vegetables, proteins, and dairy products. Water is the most beneficial beverage. Avoid food and drink rich in sugar, carbohydrate, and acid content.
As parent’s, you must take care of your child’s health along with his dental needs. You can become a role model for your child by doing the right things at every step of their life.
Take away message
No parent wants to see their child suffer from health ailments. Most of the parents focus on their child’s overall health and give the least importance to oral health care. It is essential to note that mouth is a standard route to systemic disease. Tooth decay and bacterial accumulation are one of the increasing concerns nationwide.
Proper education and awareness about dental health care can help the parents to take care of their child’s oral health needs. Sugar has been declared as one the main culprits of tooth decay in children. The best way to prevent cavities and tooth decay is to familiarize your children with a healthy nutritious diet.
Early oral health care practices can help to teach good oral hygiene habits in the child’s mind. Additionally, track your child’s oral health condition by following up regular dental visits.