Are you doing enough to protect your children’s teeth from cavities? Most parents are surprised to learn that nearly 20 percent of all children from ages 5 to 19 have untreated cavities (dental caries). Caused by bacteria eating away the outer protective layer of tooth enamel, cavities can cause tooth pain and weakness, as well as require dental treatment. Yet, there are ways to prevent tooth decay in children. Establishing early habits that promote good oral health can go a long way towards minimizing the chance of tooth decay.
Stress Daily Brushing AND Flossing
From the time a child is two years old, they can start using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. By the time they are old enough for school, they should already be in the habit of brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day. Regular brushing and flossing helps to remove bacteria on and between teeth that can turn into a sticky film called plaque. If plaque isn’t effectively cleaned off of teeth, it can damage enamel and begin the first stages of cavities. The following are some simple ways to prevent tooth decay from starting.
Drink Tap Water
Tap water in most locales in the United States contains fluoride which helps to protect against tooth decay considerably. When possible, choose tap water over bottled water which typically doesn’t contain fluoride.
Limit Sugary Snacks and Drinks
When a child is continuously eating and drinking throughout the day, their teeth are constantly exposed to acids which can form into mouth bacteria and plaque. Stick to healthy meals and a minimum of sugar-free snacks each day.
Add a Rinse to the Daily Routine
Most dentists will recommend an oral rinse for children who are at a high risk for tooth decay. A fluoridated or antibacterial mouth rinse can help protect tooth enamel and eliminate bacteria and plaque in the mouth.
Watch for Symptoms of Cavities
There is no one symptom that indicates a cavity. In fact, there may be no symptoms at all. However, in many cases, there are subtle signs that indicate that it may be time to see a dentist sooner than later. These include:
- White, black or brown spots on the surface of a tooth
- Tooth pain or sensitivity
- Sensitivity when eating or drinking something cold, hot or sweet
- Small, visible holes in the teeth
Consider Dental Sealants
Dental sealants are thin coatings that are painted on the chewing surfaces of back teeth to prevent cavities. School age children that don’t have sealants have three times more 1st molar cavities than those with sealants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s likely that your child’s dentist will recommend sealants when they reach school age. In some areas, there are school-based sealant programs to help children who are at higher risk for cavities.