Cavities are probably the first thing most of us think of when we think about dental problems. Nobody wants to go to the dentist and hear the dreaded report of a cavity. In fact, it’s probably why some of us have an irrational fear of the dentist and dental care.
This is why preventing cavities in children is so incredibly important. By doing everything you can to avoid tooth decay and cavities from developing in your child, you can improve your child’s oral health and hopefully make going to the dentist that much more fun. This in turn will create a positive feedback loop that helps you and your little one prioritize the health of their teeth and encourage a healthy smile as they grow up!
What is tooth decay and how does it cause cavities?
Tooth decay is the most prevalent dental disease of childhood here in the United States. Cavities, also known as caries, are small holes that develop due to damage to the hard surfaces of teeth.
Tooth decay and cavities happen because of leftover food particles on the teeth, which forms a sticky substance called plaque that sticks to the surface, or enamel, of teeth. As bacteria feed on plaque, it creates acid as a byproduct which begins to eat away at the enamel.
Eventually, plaque can harden to form tartar, which can basically act as a shield for the bacteria and acid. This in turn can lead to further tooth decay, damaging the layer below the enamel, called the dentin. Because the dentin is softer than the enamel, the damage can spread more quickly, leading to cavities. Tooth decay and cavities can lead to small holes into the pulp of the teeth where nerve tissue is located.
Cavities can cause symptoms that include tooth pain, toothaches, tooth sensitivity, and visible staining and holes. Risk factors for cavities vary and can include naturally thin enamel, a sugar-rich diet, poor oral hygiene, and lack of dental care. Long-term complications of cavities can include difficulty eating, tooth loss, and a tooth infection or abscess.
Treatment for cavities depends on the symptoms and severity of tooth decay. Dentists can use fluoride treatments, fillings, crowns, and root canals to treat cavities and related symptoms. In more severe cases, tooth extraction or other oral surgery may be required.
Signs of Cavities
As a parent, it can often be hard to know what’s going on inside your child’s mouth. Even as they grow more independent with their brushing routine, you’ll still want to ensure they aren’t developing cavities. Toothache is a good sign that something isn’t quite right in their mouth. This could also come in the form of sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures or sweets, which may indicate a cavity.
A hole or a pit in a tooth is a clear indication that a cavity has formed, and you’ll want to get this checked out as soon as possible by a dentist. Stains may also appear, which might start off as a white spot, and this is another sign that the enamel is starting to break down. By learning how to prevent cavities in children, you can work to prevent all of these issues in the future.
7 Tips for Preventing Cavities in Children
Of course, the best way to treat cavities and tooth decay is to prevent them from developing in the first place. By starting early, children can put themselves at an advantage for the long-term prevention of cavities and tooth decay. Don’t wait until your child has his or her adult teeth to start a comprehensive cavity prevention plan that includes the following:
1. Brush every day
Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, typically after meals, helps remove plaque and stop tartar buildup.
2. Rinse your mouth
Rinsing before you brush can help remove the bacteria that eat away at your enamel.
It’s never too early to start flossing to remove tiny food particles between your child’s teeth that brushing and flossing can’t get to.
4. Use fluoride treatments
Fluoride has been proven to help strengthen enamel and prevent tooth decay, which is why it is in tap water. Some dentists recommend additional topical fluoride treatment for high-risk patients.
5. Choose water over soda or sugary drinks for your child
Eating a healthy diet and reducing sugar intake can go a long way toward stopping plaque buildup and eventual tooth decay.
6. Avoid bottles or sippy cups before naptime or bedtime
An additional important step for toddlers and young children is avoiding drinking milk or juice before bedtime from a bottle or sippy cup, as it sticks to the teeth and speeds up decay.
7. Explore dental sealants and other preventive measures
Pediatric dentists can help prevent cavities through specialized treatments such as dental sealants that can help protect vulnerable and hard-to-reach areas.
The Importance of Early Dental Care
Along with a healthy diet and good oral hygiene, seeing a pediatric dentist as early and as regularly as possible is another key cavity prevention step.
It’s important to take your child to their first pediatric dental visit by age one, or after their first tooth appears. Together with your pediatric dentist, you can make a custom prevention plan that includes brushing, flossing, rinsing, dietary recommendations, and anything else that will help with your child’s dental health.
Your daily routine at home in addition to your regular dental will help build a lifetime of healthy smiles.
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry
Going to the dentist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists make the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!