Did you know that 42 percent of kids aged 2 to 11 have had cavities in baby teeth? While this figure may seem high, there are easy healthy dental habits you can adopt with your children to help prevent such cavities from occurring. If your child does end up with a cavity, it’s important to get it treated right away.
Fluoride use significantly reduces cavities in children. However, ingesting too much fluoride as a child can cause mottling and discoloration of adult teeth. To prevent cavities, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests using a small amount of fluoride toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice, for children under age 3. A pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is recommended for kids aged 3 to 6, and those kids should be taught to spit, not swallow, the toothpaste.
Adopt Good Brushing Techniques
Proper brushing techniques are essential for cavity prevention in kids. MedlinePlus suggests the following key brushing strategies for children with baby teeth:
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush
- Brush twice a day (after breakfast and before bed)
- Brush for at least two minutes per session (use an app like Chomper Chums to make brushing fun for kids)
- Focus on back teeth (molars) because these teeth are more at risk for cavity formation
- Brush in tiny circles on teeth and gums
- Always brush the tongue
- Floss teeth once daily
- Change to a new toothbrush every three to four months
- Help your child brush until he or she is 10 or 11 years old
Get Regular Checkups
Taking your child to regular dental visits is key for cavity prevention in baby teeth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests seeing a pediatric dentist as soon as your child’s first baby tooth is visible or no later than his or her first birthday and every six months after that. During dental visits, your child will get professional teeth cleanings, x-rays when necessary and fluoride treatments or sealant applications as needed.
Make Good Food Choices
Believe it or not, your child’s diet significantly impacts his or her teeth. Consuming too much sugar via candies, sweets, sugary drinks and starches such as white bread significantly boosts your child’s risk for cavities. Even drinking too much juice can be problematic. The AAP recommends limiting juice to 4 to 6 ounces per day for kids aged one to six, and eight to 12 ounces daily for children aged seven to 18.
While baby teeth do fall out eventually, it’s still important to take good care of these teeth. Cavities in baby teeth can be painful for children, making it difficult to eat healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Healthy baby teeth are important for proper speech development, and act as placeholders for adult teeth as they get ready to come through.
If your child does develop a cavity, it’s crucial to seek treatment as soon as possible. Cavity – also known as decay – treatment for children usually involves removing the decayed part of the tooth and replacing it with a filling.
The Bottom Line
While you may not always be able to prevent cavities in baby teeth, adopting good dental hygiene practices such as regular dental checkups, proper brushing and fluoride use and healthy eating reduces your child’s risk for cavities — and teaches healthy habits that can last a lifetime.