4 Tips to Prevent Childhood Tooth Decay

It’s never too late to brush up on your dental care knowledge. Knowing how to care for your teeth properly can save your teeth and bank account in the long run. But the sooner you build up these healthy dental care habits, the better off you’ll be.

Most people start brushing their teeth as young as two or three. Around this age, it’s best to use baby toothbrushes with a smidgen of fluoride toothpaste (i.e., the size of a grain of rice). Instilling these habits into your little ones is especially crucial for keeping their yet-to-be-seen adult teeth growing strong and healthy. Many erroneously think that baby teeth don’t require a whole lot of dental care, but they are wrong. The truth is, problems you create for baby teeth could evolve into problems with the adult teeth underneath. For example, if you let an abscess go untreated in a child’s mouth, it can potentially disfigure or discolor the adult tooth underneath. Moreover, if a baby tooth comes out before it’s supposed to, space will close, and adult teeth will be at a higher risk of coming in crooked.

Fortunately, you can combat these issues by helping your child correctly care for their teeth. Today, we have four significant suggestions from our pediatric dental specialists in Katy, that will help you keep your kid’s choppers in the best possible shape.

Don’t delay dentist visits

Some people take a more lax approach to their children’s oral care and therefore wait too long to get any issues checked out. This mistake can end up costing your child a beautiful white smile, and even worse, their dental health. That’s why it’s crucial to visit your pediatric dentist as soon as a problem starts rearing its head. If your child has few to no dental problems, you should still take them in for a regular checkup every six months. On this note, the American Dental Association (ADA) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAPD) recommend taking your child in for their first dental checkup by their first birthday. Robert Delarosa, DDS of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, would have to agree, saying, “I’ve seen decay in kids as young as 20, 18, even 15 months old, but never at 12 months or younger. That early prevention is crucial.” This is why dentistry for children in Katy is so essential.

Taking your child in for a dental checkup at a young age is an excellent way to establish healthy dental care habits. However, it’s also an excellent time to start showing your child that visiting the dentist isn’t nearly as scary as they might think. The sooner you take them in for their first appointment, the quicker you can normalize trips to the dentist, making the entire process a whole lot less intimidating. Interestingly, the dentist’s office only becomes a scary place for kids if they suffer dental problems, like cavities. You can sidestep all of these issues with regular dental checkups starting at a young age.

The right toothpaste makes a difference.

Like we mentioned earlier, one of the most common methods to brush a young child’s teeth is to use a minimal amount of fluoride toothpaste on a baby toothbrush. Baby toothbrushes use soft, extra-fine bristles that won’t irritate a baby’s sensitive little gums. However, not every parent is sold on using fluoride toothpaste at such a young age. If this is the case, you can also use fluoride-free toothpaste specially designed for young children. Still, though, the ADA recommends fluoride toothpaste over fluoride-free varieties, as fluoride toothpaste can help remineralize teeth that have suffered decay from bacterial acids. The grain-of-rice recommendation we made above is suitable for children under three, while older children between four and six years of age can upgrade to a pea-sized dollop. Don’t let crazy colors or flavors deter you, either. “Children’s toothpaste has the same amount of fluoride—about 900 parts per million—as the adult kind, but the fun flavors and colors mean kids will be more likely to stick with a brushing routine,” says Dr. Delarosa.

For babies who have just started teething, you can still take preventative measures to keep their mouths healthy. If you don’t have a baby toothbrush on hand, you can take a clean, damp face cloth to their gums and develop teeth to remove any plaque buildup. As for flossing, you don’t need to worry about that until more of their teeth start coming in. Once a child’s teeth touch together, you can begin flossing between them.

Skip the sugar

This advice is just as sound for children as it is for adults. Nearly all dentists recommend cutting back on sugary foods and drinks to preserve the health of your teeth. However, since children often have little to no say in what they consume, it’ll be up to you as the parent to make sure they limit their daily sugar intake. One of the biggest mistakes a new parent can make is giving their child a bottle to sleep with, especially if it is filled with a drink containing sugar, like milk. Letting a milk-filled bottle remain in a child’s mouth while sleeping can lead to severe baby tooth decay and displacement. This problem is colloquially known as ‘bottle mouth,’ as the problems usually stem from the baby sleeping with a bottle in their–you guessed it–mouth. However, if your baby has a hard time sleeping without a bottle, you can fill the bottle with water. Water is much less likely to cause a bacteria or plaque buildup in your child’s mouth.

It might be challenging to limit your child’s daily sugar intake, with juice being one of the most popular drinks for children. However, you can find healthier alternatives that will satisfy your child’s juice cravings and keep their mouth healthy. Steer clear of any products that contain high-fructose corn syrup, which is one of the most sugary additives you can find in food and drink products today. If you can, opt instead for homemade juices made of real fruit. Not only are whole foods much healthier than their processed counterparts, but knowing exactly what’s going into your kid’s drinks can give you peace of mind.

Ask your dentist about sealants.

Dental sealants are precisely what they sound like: chemicals that seal over your teeth to prevent bacteria and plaque buildup from decaying your teeth. Sealants are one of the best preventative measures you can take to ensure long-term dental health. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), dental sealants protect against a whopping 80% of cavities for up to two years. This number drops down to 50% over four years, which is still pretty respectable. Getting sealants are quick and painless, and they can also prevent the need for expensive dental repair like fillings and crowns down the road.

Sealants are especially suitable for irregularly-shaped teeth like molars, which can quickly build up plaque in their grooves and uneven surfaces. Permanent molars start coming in between ages five and seven when your child can receive their first round of sealants. The second set of permanent molars start coming in between the ages of 11 and 14, which is another good time to reseal your child’s teeth. However, since the effectiveness of dental sealants tapers off after three to four years, it’s good to get another round of sealants in between the sprouting of your kid’s first and second set of permanent molars.

As you can see, caring for your child’s teeth is no small matter. It’s a shame that so many people think that early childhood dental care is unnecessary since the teeth are going to fall out anyway. Early on, establishing good dental habits can help children maintain a big, toothy smile for the rest of their lives. In addition to these four tips, it’s also essential to ensure that your child also maintains a healthy diet. Unhealthy foods like fried, oily foods can facilitate bacteria buildup in your mouth, and baby teeth are especially vulnerable to the tooth decay these bacteria can cause.

Moreover, try to limit your kid’s candy intake for the same reasons that you should limit how many sugary drinks they have. It can be tempting to give in to your child’s demands for sweets, but restricting their sugar intake is surprisingly one of the best ways to take care of them. Sometimes the best way you can parent a child is by telling them ‘no.’ Limiting sugary food and drink products is a great place to start.

Taking an active interest in your child’s overall health will translate to better dental hygiene over time. Between a low sugar intake, careful brushing habits, and dental sealants that protect teeth, you have a list of great options you can choose from to help maintain your child’s dental health. There’s no better time to establish good dental hygiene habits than when your child is very young. Hopefully, you’ve learned something new about how to care for your child’s teeth properly. Thanks for reading and happy brushing!

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