Ways to Prevent Tooth Decay in Children
Tooth decay is pretty common in children of all ages due to many factors. This type of tooth decay is known as early childhood caries, nursing caries, or baby bottle tooth decay. It happens when acid from bacteria damages and erodes the protective layer on teeth, which is called enamel. To help your kid avoid tooth decay and other dental infections, you should help them develop good dental hygiene habits and teach them that dental health is achieved by a lifelong commitment. That said, let’s look at some of the most common ways you can help your child prevent cavities and ensure they have a healthy smile.
Kids Should Brush and Floss Every Day
Every pediatric dentist would argue that you should begin with oral hygiene from day one. You can wipe your baby’s gums with a soft damp cloth before they’re three months old, to remove plaque build ups and make sure their teeth erupt in a clean and healthy environment. Once the first tooth appears, we can brush it with a small toothbrush with soft bristles.
Your baby or toddler shouldn’t have any prolonged contact with formula or breast milk. You should clean your baby’s teeth after feeding, especially at night. Some dentists recommend using a rice-size amount of fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first tooth shows up, and some say to wait until a child is 3 years old and has established a spitting reflex. Either way, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste should be applied when brushing teeth if a child is over three years old. As far as the flossing goes, you can start doing it once your kid has more teeth that are touching each other.
Avoid Juices and Other Sugary Drinks and Replace Bottles With Cups
Juices are often full of hidden sugars and have little to no nutritive value. Compared to fruit, juices contain no fiber, have more calories, and unless the label says they are 100% fruit, they are mostly sugar and water. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that babies younger than 6 months shouldn’t drink juice. If the juice is given to babies between 6 to 12 months, it should be no more than 4 ounces per day and you should mix it with water. Children between 1 and 6 years should have a maximum of 4 to 6 ounces per day, preferably during meals. Make sure you introduce cups when your baby is between 12-15 months because frequent bottle feedings can also lead to caries at this age. Avoid giving your baby juice or milk in a bottle, especially during the night. You can try to fill it with plain water at night, and give your child an empty cup to play with during the day to ensure they get used to the idea of drinking from a cup.
Provide Them With Balanced Meals
A balanced diet that consists of whole grains, vegetables, fruit, yogurt, and cheese is an excellent choice for your child. If they still eat some sweet or sticky foods, make sure you at least rinse their teeth with water after meals if you can’t brush them at that moment.
A Proper Fluoride Intake is Paramount
An amount of fluoride in tapped and bottled water is perfectly safe, both for kids and adults, according to the CDC. You can always see with your pediatric dentist if your child needs an additional fluoride, either as a supplement or as fluoride varnish, which is a simple dental treatment that can even reverse the beginning phases of cavities and prevent them from further development. But if your child takes supplements, you should ensure he or she takes them precisely as prescribed, as they could be toxic and cause dental fluorosis.
Regular Dental Cleanings Are a Must
You should make a dental appointment with your pediatric dentist at least twice a year for your child to have regular dental cleanings with professional dental tools, where a dentist will also be able to spot any signs of more serious dental problems or infections and suggest the best course of action for further treatments.
The Bottom Line
There are many ways we can help our children prevent tooth decay. The most important is that they develop a consistent oral care routine that consists of regular brushing and flossing, which should begin in the early infancy. Babies and toddlers should avoid sugary foods and drinks, as well as any extended contact with breast milk or formula. We should introduce them to cups around their first birthday and avoid giving them juice that isn’t 100% made of fruit. Other than that, they should have regular teeth cleanings every six months so that a pediatric dentist can perform a full dental checkup, search for potential problems and act accordingly.
What do you think is the most important way to prevent tooth decay in kids? Why? Share your opinion in the comment section below!