Would you be surprised to know that tooth decay is the most common chronic disease facing children today? In fact, it is nearly five times as prevalent as childhood asthma. Nearly 40% of children will have a cavity by the time they enter kindergarten. Untreated tooth decay can lead to pain and infection. Toothaches can make it hard for your child to concentrate in school and even sleep at night. As a dental profession, we view tooth decay as an infectious bacterial disease capable of causing detrimental effects to proper growth and development. The good news is that tooth decay is preventable. Here are some tips on how to keep your child cavity-free.
Oral home care should start as soon as possible. Even before your child has any teeth, you can begin cleansing the gums with a soft, wet washcloth. This can be conveniently incorporated into your bath-time routine. As soon as teeth begin to erupt, they are susceptible to getting cavities. Clean your child’s teeth with a soft bristled toothbrush two times a day to ensure that teeth stay healthy and strong. A smear amount of fluoride toothpaste can be introduced around 2 years of age. It should ultimately be the parents’ responsibility to brush your child’s teeth until they have developed enough dexterity to do an adequate job of brushing (usually around 8 years old).
Children should visit the dentist as soon as their first tooth erupts, but no later than 1 year old. Early preventive and educational visits with a properly trained dentist will greatly reduce your child’s risk of developing tooth decay.
Say NO to fruit juice and fruit snacks
It is very common to think that fruit juice and fruit snacks are healthy alternatives to soda and candy. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The truth is that juice is high in sugar and very acidic. This combination can cause tooth enamel to break down at a very rapid rate. Even if the container says “all natural” or “no sugar added”, the sugar content is still very high. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4-6oz of juice per day for children aged 1-5. Juice should NEVER be put into a sippy cup or bottle. “Watering down” juice does very little to combat its cariogenic nature and actually provides a false sense of security to parents. Fruit snacks are also high in sugar. When you combine that with its sticky and retentive nature, you get another very common culprit that causes cavities. The truly healthy alternative is to stick with whole fruits and vegetables, and be sure that milk and water are the beverages of choice.
We all want what’s best for our children. Take an active role in making sure that your child will have a bright, healthy smile. By providing a healthy diet and proper oral hygiene at a young age, you can help ensure your little ones will have a life free of dental disease.