As parents we do everything we can to keep our children safe and healthy, we baby proof the house, we schedule and keep routine medical appointments, make sure they get plenty of sleep, and sometimes even catch them before they fall. Are we doing everything we can to ensure their mouth is as heathy as the rest of their body, though? Childhood cavities are often avoidable, and we’re going to discuss some ways your child can grow into adulthood cavity free.
Brush Early and Often
It is strongly suggested that from the time your baby’s first tooth erupts that you begin brushing their teeth. During the infant stage, this is accomplished using a damp washcloth or piece of gauze and simply rubbing it over your baby’s gums. Once your little one is around one, you can introduce a baby toothbrush and begin teaching about proper brushing habits by making it a routine to brush twice a day.
You can make brushing more fun by letting your child help choose their toothbrush, pick toothpaste specially designed for children, and find fun brushing songs or games to help the time go faster. It’s better too if you can get the whole family involved, so your little one sees everyone taking care of their teeth.
Starting at around age two, you can introduce flossing into the brushing routine. You will need to floss for them in the beginning and help some until your child is between eight and ten. Flossing is important to remove food particles from between teeth and helps remove bacteria which can lead to bad breath. We suggest flossing at least once a day for about two minutes, a bit shorter until all teeth erupt.
Getting your child into the habit of flossing early will help ensure that good dental habits will be followed into adulthood.
Visit the dentist
While dentists tend to see children by age four or five, that is a few years too late. Current recommendations are to have your child’s first dental exam around their first birthday. The dentist will probably not do cleaning this early but will perform an oral exam to check the health and alignment of current teeth and begin looking for early signs of decay and any oral health issues.
Getting your child accustomed to the dentist early, before there are any oral concerns, will help keep your child comfortable when cleanings do begin.
Babies and bottles
We can’t stress this one enough, babies and bottles in bed are never a good idea. If your baby falls asleep with a bottle of milk or juice, the fluid will continue to slowly flow out of the bottle, coating baby’s teeth and gums with sugar through the night. Over time, this constant presence of sugar can cause cavities in new baby teeth. As parents, it is easy to overlook this bad habit because we typically don’t think of oral health as it pertains to infants.
You can improve your baby’s chance of being cavity free simply by not letting them fall asleep with a bottle and brushing their teeth and gums as discussed above.
We know as adults it’s important to eat healthy, it’s just as important for your baby and child to eat healthy not only for good growth but also for oral health. Once your baby graduates from baby food to “real” food, it’s important to limit sugary and high carb foods which can cause bacteria in the mouth and lead to early cavities.
We also suggest, as long as there are no allergies, generous amounts of milk, meat, and nuts which are plentiful in calcium and magnesium, two main minerals vital to healthy teeth.
This one is so simple, yet so effective. Many pediatricians encourage the introduction of water to young babies, and the dental community agrees. Water is as necessary to oral health as it is to overall wellness for your child. Water rinses away residual milk and food particles and helps decrease bacteria in the mouth all which helps decrease the chance of early cavities.
Put Sealants on Molars
Once your child’s first permanent molars begin erupting somewhere between eight and ten, it’s time to start talking to your dentist about sealants. Many molars have natural grooves and pits which are like prime real estate to cavity causing bacteria. Sealants, which are brushed onto the chewing surface of permanent molars, provide a barrier between your child’s teeth and food and bacteria. An extra bonus of sealants is that it makes keeping the molars clean easier.
Sealants are painless and do not require Novocaine or needles. Once brushed on, a special light is used to cure the sealant. That’s all there is to it, no special after care required.
Rinse Medication Down
It’s always nerve wracking when your child falls ill and requires medication. It usually isn’t on our mind that the medication prescribed to restore health to our little one can contribute to future cavities. Many medications for children contains a high sugar content to help mask the taste of the active ingredient in the syrup.
It is very important therefore to encourage your child to drink a bit of water after taking their dose of medicine to help wash the sugar away. This may be hard to do, especially if your child’s throat is sore but even a sip or two can help.
We all want our children to be happy and healthy, and we hope that the above ideas will be beneficial to you. It may not be possible to totally eliminate cavities in our children, but knowing we have done everything we can to encourage strong and healthy teeth is priceless.
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s dental health, cavities, or oral health, please contact your dentist or hygienist who will have more detailed information about ways to prevent cavities.