Cavities in Children: Why do they show up and what can you do to prevent them?

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It’s probably disheartening to know that your child is susceptible to tooth decay (AKA cavities) from the time that their first little gem pops out of their gums. While there are many reasons why kids get cavities, luckily there is also a lot you can do to prevent them.

What causes cavities?

First off, tooth decay – caused by a breakdown of the tooth enamel due to bacteria in your mouth that makes a corrosive acid – is the most common chronic disease among children from 6 to 19-years-old. As a matter of fact, research shows that tooth decay is four times more common than asthma among adolescents. So it is clearly not unusual for children to experience tooth decay.

Plaque is a sticky substance that forms on your teeth and contains the acid-forming bacteria. When you eat or drink food that contains carbohydrates and sugars, it produces the acid that breaks down the food and also attacks your teeth forming cavities. Common foods that can cause tooth decay include milk (yes, milk!), soda, candy, cake, fruit juices, cereals, and bread.

Ways to battle tooth decay

One way that we have battled tooth decay in this country is water fluoridation. This has been a major contributor to the decline of the rate of tooth decay. Studies show that water fluoridation can reduce the amount of decay in children’s teeth up to 40%

For infants and toddlers, try not to put sugary drinks in their bottle, keeping them filled only with formula, milk and water. If at all possible, put your baby to bed with a water bottle not milk or formula as the sugars can damage their teeth while sleeping. If you must do milk, make sure to brush afterwards – even our littlest ones can learn good habits early. 

Also, give your child healthy foods with lots of proteins, calcium and phosphorus that help them develop strong teeth. Replace sugary snacks with healthy alternatives like fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, yogurt and cheese.

But we can be even more proactive in helping to prevent children from getting cavities.

A checkup already? Yep!

Your child’s first check-up should come just as they’re sprouting their first lower central incisors, the middle ones on the bottom. That’s right! As soon as you see the whites of your child’s first tooth (what we call tooth eruption in the biz) we want to see them in our office.  At the latest, we recommend establishing a practice of regular checkups at least by their first birthday.

Why so soon? Because preventive dental care starts with the first tooth. Just like an adult, it’s recommended that your baby visit a pediatric dentist about every six months. You want to make sure even baby teeth stay as healthy as possible and prevent any other problems before they start. Care of baby teeth is just as important as permanent teeth since any cavities or decay can actually affect the next generation of teeth.

You can also ask your dentist about sealants. These protect the chewing surface of the child’s teeth, especially in the back teeth where food and bacteria hide in the deeper grooves. The sealants are a protective clear barrier on your teeth and can last for years.

More helpful tips to prevent tooth decay

Here are some things you can also do to prevent cavities in children:

  • Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaner
  • Eat nutritious, balanced meals and limit sugary snacks, especially sticky treats that are hard to clean from teeth as they will increase the chances of decay
  • Check with your dentist about the use of supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth, and about use of dental sealants (a plastic protective coating) applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (where decay often starts) to protect them from decay.
  • Oral bacteria can be spread by food and beverage sharing so try to avoid swapping of bacteria, by teaching your children not to share food and drinks
  • Drinking plenty of water every day to flush bacteria from your mouth

Most importantly, as we mentioned earlier, visit the dentist regularly! At XX Dental we have tons of experience with kids and are eager to meet you and your little one. 

Call 703-719-5828 or click below to schedule an appointment. Our fun, friendly practice is just the place for your little one! 

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Dr Ghatri

I feel truly blessed to be a part of each of my patient’s journey to achieve their dream smile.

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