Tooth decay is a serious problem in children, with studies showing that approximately 42% of kids between the ages of 2 and 11 develop cavities. Cavities have become a common chronic disease, and unfortunately, cavities can leave your child dealing with pain, infection, and other related oral health problems. Taking care of your child’s teeth is important, since healthy teeth are essential for speech development, proper chewing, and good nutrition. Here’s a closer look at baby teeth, why they’re important, and some tips for preventing cavities.
Importance of Baby Teeth
Some parents have the idea that the baby teeth, or primary teeth, are not important because they eventually fall out. However, baby teeth are actually significant for several reasons. The baby teeth help encourage jaw bone development, reserving the space that will be needed later for the permanent teeth. Baby teeth also aid in speech development and allow children to efficiently chew their food. When the baby teeth are unhealthy, your child is more likely to have oral health problems once they have their permanent teeth as well.
Tips for Cavity Prevention
Cavities have the potential to spread and result in infection if they aren’t taken care of properly, but it is possible to prevent childhood cavities. Here’s a look at some simple tips parents can use to prevent cavities in baby teeth and promote good overall oral health.
Tip #1 – Ensure Your Child Gets Fluoride
Fluoride helps prevent cavities by protecting tooth enamel and ensuring it’s more resistant to the bacteria and acids that can cause tooth decay. Make sure your child is drinking water that is fluoride, since water fluoridation shows a significant reduction in childhood tooth decay. If your water isn’t fluoridated, you may want to talk to your dentist about dietary fluoride supplements. Using toothpaste and mouthwash with fluoride in it can also help with cavity prevention.
Tip #2 – Reduce Consumption of Starches and Sugars
It’s important to make sure your child is eating a healthy diet to prevent cavities in baby teeth. A poor diet that lacks important nutrients can result in the faster progression of tooth decay in baby teeth. You also need to reduce your child’s consumption of starches and sugars, since they result in the production of acids that eat away at tooth enamel, increasing the risk of cavities. Watch out for foods that seem healthy but that pack in sugars, such as fruit juices. Foods high in acids, such as citrus fruits, should be limited as well, since they can also weaken tooth enamel.
Tip #3 – Beware of What Your Child Drinks at Bedtime
Many parents soothe their child at bedtime with a bottle, but you need to beware of what your child drinks at bedtime. After nighttime brushing, avoid allowing your child to go to bed with a sippy cup of bottle that contains juice or milk. Both juice and milk contain sugars, and if your child drinks those beverages at bedtime, those sugars stay on your child’s teeth all night long, increasing the risk of cavities. If you want to put your child to bed with a drink, stick to water.
Tip #4 – Brushing and Flossing
As soon as that first baby tooth pops, it’s time to start brushing your child’s teeth, and as soon as there are teeth that touch each other, you’ll probably want to start flossing between teeth. Teeth should be brushed twice a day, and the earlier you start this routine, the easier it will be for your child to stick with oral hygiene habits that last a lifetime. Help your child learn to brush correctly, using gentle strokes with the brush at a 45-degree angle to teeth. Brushing should last for two minutes. Make brushing more fun with games and songs, or ask your dentist for suggestions that can make oral hygiene more fun for your kids.
Tip #5 – Schedule Regular Checkups
Scheduling regular checkups with your child’s dentist can also help prevent cavities in baby teeth. Your dentist can help educate your child on good oral health habits that can prevent tooth decay. Regular checkups also ensure that any oral health problems are caught early before they become a significant problem. Routine cleanings will reduce plaque buildup that can cause cavities as well.
Just because your child’s baby teeth will fall out doesn’t mean that oral care can be neglected. With good oral health habits and regular dental visits, you can prevent cavities in baby teeth and ensure your child enjoys a beautiful smile now and on into adulthood.