The statistics on children with tooth decay are really surprising. Did you know that pediatric tooth decay is five times more common than asthma? The CDC reports that it is present in about 20% of U.S. children aged 5 to 11 years old. Also, 13% of adolescents aged 12-19 have at least one untreated cavity.
Four actions parents should take to prevent pediatric tooth decay
#1, be a good role model. Brush and floss regularly and visit the dentist twice per year. Teach your child how to follow your lead. Help with and supervise your child’s oral hygiene until they are at least 7 years old. If the entire family makes brushing and flossing a twice-per-day habit, it will happen naturally without a struggle. Parents can also encourage brushing an additional time (after lunch or sticky/sugary treats) whenever possible.
#2, understand how food affects the teeth. All types of sugars and the foods that contain them can play a role in tooth decay. Candy and other obvious sugars are not the only culprits. Starches like crackers and potato chips are just as likely to cause tooth decay when not properly brushed away. Ensure frequent brushing after eating, especially when your child consumes foods that contain high levels of sugars. Provide them with healthy and crunchy snacks like apples, carrots, and nuts. These are great for breaking down sticky substances on teeth. Sugar free gum is also OK in between meals because it activates saliva, which helps to wash off the teeth.
#3, take your child to the dentist on a regular schedule. The American Academy for Pediatric Dentistry recommends that every child visit a dentist by their first birthday. There is a better chance of preventing tooth decay when children are seen by a dentist early. Even if you take excellent care of your child’s teeth and gums at home, they still need to see a dentist twice per year. Plaque can happen to anyone, and the dentist’s tools are most effective in removing plaque that has hardened into tartar.
#4, make sure your child gets enough fluoride. Children should use fluoride toothpaste as soon as they are able to avoid swallowing it, generally around age three. Your pediatric dentist will probably talk to you about fluoride regardless, but remember to ask just in case. In some cases, the dentist will recommend a special fluoride treatment. These treatments can help prevent or slow down tooth decay.
If you are in the Raleigh area, we would love to meet you and your child. To speak with one of our pediatric dentistry professionals, contact us today.