A Pediatric Dentist Gives an Overview of Cavity Prevention
Children have a higher risk of developing tooth decay than adults. Fortunately, a pediatric dentist can help parents make an effective cavity prevention plan. By following these simple tips, children can enjoy healthier teeth while avoiding more invasive dental work.
Cavity prevention tips from a pediatric dentist
Daily practices and habits have the biggest impact on cavity prevention. Parents should help children develop a healthy dental care routine at home to avoid tooth decay, and it should include the following elements:
Brushing and flossing
Young children should start brushing twice a day and flossing once a day as soon as baby teeth erupt above the gumline. Using fluoride toothpaste is recommended for all ages; however, parents should monitor this and ensure babies and toddlers only use a small amount, about the size of a grain of rice. Once a child can brush without swallowing, parents can increase the amount of fluoride toothpaste to a pea-sized drop. Brushing and flossing should be supervised to help children learn proper techniques and achieve better cleaning.
A diet higher in sugar puts children at risk for more dental decay. The type of treats consumed can also have an impact on dental health. Sticky candies and gummy treats tend to get trapped in the chewing surfaces of teeth, which means prolonged exposure and more enamel erosion. Treats and sugary drinks should be enjoyed only occasionally.
Younger children who are dependent on bottles, pacifiers, or finger-sucking are more likely to have trouble with cavities. All of these habits can introduce excess bacteria into the mouth, and bottles can dispense a steady flow of sugar-filled beverages over the teeth and gums. Parents should follow these recommendations to help reduce the risks of tooth decay:
- Stop bottle use by the age of 1
- Stop pacifier use by the age of 3
- Stop finger- and thumb-sucking by the age of 4
While home care can go a long way in preventing tooth decay, professional care is still essential for a child's dental health.
Routine visits to the pediatric dentist
Experts recommend that children visit the dentist when the first baby teeth start to erupt. Six-month checkups help ensure cleaner teeth and early detection of decay, which can help avoid the need for fillings and crowns. These visits also help children feel more comfortable and relaxed once checkups become more involved.
Some dental treatments can help prevent cavities in younger children. Fluoride treatments help strengthen tooth enamel for better natural protection. Dental sealants can help prevent cavities towards the back of the mouth. In fact, the American Dental Association recommends dental sealants for children ages 6 to 12, as these can reduce cavities in molars by around 80%.
FAQs about childhood cavities from a pediatric dentist
Here are answers from a pediatric dentist to some commonly asked questions about cavity treatment:
What causes cavities in children?
Cavities develop when bacterial attacks damage the outermost layer of teeth (enamel). This leaves small holes on teeth and can expose the nerves and blood vessels beneath, which subsequently can lead to discomforting symptoms and well as a cosmetic concern. The most notable contributing factors to cavities in children include a diet that is high in sugar (and other carbohydrates) and an irregular oral care routine.
Is it important to treat baby teeth with cavities?
A common misconception is that the health of baby teeth is less important since they are going to fall out regardless. However, baby teeth that have untreated cavities are more vulnerable to falling out earlier than they otherwise would. This can contribute to teeth and jaw misalignments and increase the risk of needing orthodontic care once the child is older. Additionally, baby teeth that have cavities can be incredibly discomforting and may affect the child’s self-image, as well.
What are the treatment options for childhood dental cavities?
The most notable treatment option for childhood cavities is a dental filling. If the enamel has only weakened and not yet eroded, then fluoride treatment may be all that is necessary to restore the tooth. For more severe cavities, particularly those that extend toward the roots of teeth, a baby root canal or tooth extraction may be necessary.
The bottom line
While cavities are common in young children, they are avoidable with the right preventative care. Parents should follow the recommendations of a pediatric dentist to help ensure a child's teeth are strong, healthy, and protected against decay.
Request an appointment here: https://www.grandparkwaypediatricdental.com or call Grand Parkway Pediatric Dental at (832) 579-0960 for an appointment in our Richmond office.
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