Now that the Halloween dust has settled, and the candy wrappers are disposed of, it’s a good time to re-visit your child’s oral health to be sure they are on track to maintain their beautiful smile and healthy mouth.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) reports tooth decay as the most common chronic childhood disease in the country.¹ 44% of U.S. children will have at least one cavity by kindergarten– a significant health issue.²
Don’t assume that decay isn’t a problem because “baby teeth” fall out, ECC is a chronic disease that can affect the health of the permanent teeth replacing them.
The good news is nearly all tooth decay can be prevented; early brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, exposure to fluoridated tap water, and a healthy diet are all simple ways to decrease the risk.
It’s no surprise that one of the biggest causes of decay is sugar; the longer and the more often a child is exposed to sugar, the greater the risk of cavities.
Sticky sugars such as caramel and even dried fruit, all cause serious decay. Beverages such as formula and fruit juice can be especially damaging. Even putting your child to bed with anything but water can lead to decay. Having milk, juice, or formula on their teeth all night long can cause cavities. If your child needs a bottle or sippy cup before bed, fill it with water. Keep in mind, it’s not just added sugar, the natural sugars found in milk and carbohydrates are also harmful.
A not-so-well-known fact is that when a caregiver shares utensils with a child, cleans a pacifier with their mouth or has other close oral contact, mouth bacteria from the caregiver can be passed to the child and damage their teeth.
Prevention of tooth decay starts early. Recommendations from the AAPD are as follow:
- Wipe gums with a clean, wet gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding.
- As soon as their first tooth appears, begin smearing it with toothpaste, the size of a grain of rice.
- Twice-daily brushing has greater benefit than once per day.
- Infants should not be put to sleep with a bottle of milk, formula, sugar water or fruit juice.
- If they fall asleep while feeding, teeth should be cleaned before placing child in bed.
Toddlers and Young Children
- Encourage children to drink from a regular cup by their first birthday. A “sippy” cup should only be used as a tool to get off the bottle.
- Except during mealtimes, only put water in a sippy cup. If a child sips on milk or juice throughout the day, it bathes the child’s teeth in cavity causing bacteria.
- Increase their amount of toothpaste to a pea-size and assist them with brushing if needed.
- Make sure they brush all of their teeth- you can make a game out of getting them to find those in the back.
- Develop good eating habits early, choose healthy snacks and keep sugar to a minimum.