In almost every instance, tooth decay is not normal. That said, it is common, especially among children. Here’s what you should know about your child’s dental health.
A Widespread Issue
Cavities are one of the most common chronic issues among children in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 20% of kids between the ages of 5 and 11 have an untreated cavity, while 13% of adolescents have some level of tooth decay.
If your child has cavities, he or she is certainly not alone. Unfortunately, when they do have cavities, children are at risk of short- and long-term consequences.
Why Cavities Matter
When they go unnoticed, cavities can cause pain and infections. They can also lead to problems with speaking, eating, playing and learning. The CDC reports that kids who have poor oral health tend to miss more school and receive disappointing grades compared to kids who have fewer oral health issues.
Fortunately, there are some easy ways to protect your child’s oral health and prevent cavities from forming in the first place.
Protecting Your Child’s Oral Health
Depending on your child’s age, there are some proactive things you can do to prevent dental decay.
- Wipe gums twice daily using a soft, clean cloth
- When teeth erupt, brush twice daily using a small, soft-bristled toothbrush
- Visit the dentist when teeth first erupt
- Ask the dentist about protecting teeth using fluoride varnish
- Brush their teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste
- Supervise brushing for kids younger than 6
- Drink fluoridated tap water
- Maintain regular dental examinations
- Ask your child’s pediatric dentist to apply dental sealants as needed
Things to Consider
Tooth decay can often develop when parents put their kids to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, juice or sugared drinks. It can also happen when kids are allowed to frequently drink from a bottle or sippy cup during the night or day.
Milk should only be served with meals and not offered during the day, at nap times or at a child’s bedtime. Although frequent and extended breastfeeding by itself does not lead to tooth decay, every breastfeeding mother should be aware of proper oral hygiene, preventive dental care and healthy diet recommendations.
It’s also important to maintain regular checkups with your child’s pediatric dentist. Since minor cavities rarely show symptoms, you may not be aware of a problem until it evolves into a painful issue requiring extensive treatment. The sooner you catch a cavity, the easier it is to treat. By waiting to get an evaluation, you run the risk of infection which can spread below the gum line, leading to tooth loss, gum disease and serious developmental complications.