Helpful Pediatric Dentistry Tips!

Preventing Tooth Decay in Children

by Dr. Steve Whittemore, D.D.S. | Published July 20, 2020

The Importance of Tooth Decay & Cavity Prevention in Children

In the way that you as a parent or caregiver want the best for your little one, your child’s dentist wants the best for them too! That’s why the pediatric dentists at Pediatric Dentistry of Central Iowa aim to educate and team up with parents in the battle against early childhood tooth decay. 

What is pediatric tooth decay?

Early childhood tooth decay (also known as Early Childhood Caries) is a condition that describes the presence of at least one decayed, missing, or filled tooth surface in children ages zero to about six years of age. Tooth decay happens when the bacteria in your child’s mouth starts to produce acid and break down the tooth. This can lead to cavities requiring filling or the removal of a decayed tooth. Even though baby teeth are not permanent, it is important to address tooth decay early on because the oral health of your child can impact the future health of their adult teeth.

How to Prevent Tooth Decay in Children

What can you, as a parent or guardian, do to proactively fight against cavities and tooth decay?

Begin Dentist Visits at an Early Age

It is recommended that your child’s first dental visit take place by the time their first tooth appears or around the time they turn one. Your pediatric dentist will check your baby/toddler’s mouth and make recommendations to begin your child’s oral hygiene off on a positive note! The dentists and staff at both Pediatric Dentistry of Central Iowa locations work hard to maintain a fear-free and fun environment for your kid’s first dental experience! 

Regularly Brush Baby Teeth

Though brushing one or two baby teeth may seem like a small feat, the benefits of diligently doing so are mighty! Starting the habit early not only eliminates the build-up of plaque, but gets your child accumulated to the practice of good dental hygiene. At first, wiping your baby’s teeth with a soft cloth or brushing with a soft toothbrush and water is sufficient. Talk to your dentist about when and how to gradually introduce toothpaste with low fluoride.

Avoid Frequent Consumption of Cavity-Promoting Foods

In general, high-sugar foods have the most negative impact on teeth. While these are most commonly associated with sugary breakfast cereals, juices, soda, and sweets, moderate to high amounts of sugars can also be found in flavored milk, yogurts, jams, and even some pasta sauces. While feeding these foods to your child in moderation is normal, be wary of how frequently and how much they are consuming; brushing teeth regularly helps to combat any build-up of plaque created by sugary foods.

Use Fluoridated Water & Toothpaste When Possible

Your dentist can make recommendations on when to introduce fluoridated toothpaste, but children can consume fluoridated water after weaning from breastmilk or mixing it in with powdered formula. Drinking water with fluoride at a young age is beneficial to your child’s overall dental health and can prevent or even reverse tooth decay. It is derived from a natural element (fluorine) and protects teeth from the damage of bacteria by preventing the bacteria from demineralizing and attacking the tooth enamel. 

Knix the Naptime Sippy Cup

While sending your child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup can be comforting, the long-term effects of this habit are detrimental to dental health. This is due to the consequences of your child drinking sugary substances like milk or juice over long periods of time while they nap or sleep. Doing so allows the sugar to practice free reign in your child’s mouth, building up plaque and attacking the teeth. As an alternative, switch from milk or juice to water when it comes to bedside sips.

Consider Sealants

Talk to your dentist about the benefits of applying a dental sealant to your child’s teeth. Sealants are a thin protective coating painted onto the teeth. The coating serves as a barrier between the enamel of the tooth and outside sources that could cause the enamel to decay. Often, sealants are applied to places that are not as easy to floss or brush; your dentist may recommend sealing nooks and crannies in molars or cavity-prone areas.

Schedule an Appointment to Discuss Childhood Tooth Decay with Your Dentist

Starting care of baby teeth early is key to developing the habits and knowledge to fight pediatric tooth decay. If interested in bringing your child in for a first checkup or to discuss more strategies to avoid tooth decay, call our Ankeny or Des Moines office! Our friendly staff will book an appointment and ensure you have all you need for your first visit with our doctors.

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