Childhood Tooth Decay
Tooth decay knows now age limits. In fact, it is the single most common chronic
childhood disease, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
The organization reports these staggering statistics:
Of the 4 million children born each year, more than half will have cavities by the
time they reach second grade
Childhood tooth decay is five times more common than asthma, four times more common
than early-childhood obesity, and 20 times more common than diabetes.
Some might think primary—or baby—teeth are less important than the permanent teeth
that soon replace them. However, the AAPD reminds parents that they serve important functions such as fostering good nutrition by
permitting proper chewing, aiding speech development, saving space for permanent
teeth, and creating self-esteem through a healthy smile.
Furthermore, the AAPD says that emerging research suggests poor oral health early
on can have lifelong effects including increased risk of having low-birth-weight
babies, developing heart disease, or suffering a stroke as an adult.
Completely preventable dental problems that go untreated cause pain, missed school,
acting out, poor concentration and other issues that impact a child’s well-being
and quality of life. Parents can take simple actions to help their children establish
good oral health early on — and create healthy habits to last a lifetime.
Develop dental routines from day 1
The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and
other organizations agree that daily oral health routines should start from birth.
Each day, parents should gently wipe their child’s gums with a baby washcloth. When
the first baby tooth appears, around six months to one year, it’s time to begin
using a soft baby toothbrush with water.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends brushing teeth
twice a day—typically after breakfast and before bed—starting at 12 to 24 months.
A dentist should be consulted regarding fluoride toothpaste use. Daily flossing
should begin when two teeth touch, which often occurs in the toddler years. And,
of course, the brushing-and-flossing routine should continue throughout childhood.
Introduce the dentist early
A child’s first dental visit should occur within six month of the first tooth’s
appearance and no later by his or her first birthday, according to the American Dental Association.
Starting preventive care visits to the dentist early in your child’s life not only
helps catch problems before they grow more serious, they also help your child become
comfortable with going to the dentist.
Regular exams also provide an opportunity to ask questions and hear your dentist’s
recommendations for care. For instance, fluoride aids in growing strong teeth. If
your child drinks mostly bottled water or your municipality’s water is low in fluoride
content, your dentist may suggest fluoride treatments.
As permanent molars appear, usually starting around age 6 or 7, the dentist may
recommend applying sealants as a means for further protecting them from decay.
Create healthy habits for healthy teeth
Good oral health extends beyond the bathroom and the dentist’s chair. Extensive
exposure to sugary drinks and foods can increase decay risks.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reminds parents never put a child to bed with
a bottle or food; give their children bottles only during meals; teach their children
to drink from a cup as soon as possible—12 to 15 months—since liquid from a cup
is less likely to collect around the teeth; fill sippy cups carried around for long
periods with water only; limit juice to 4 to 6 ounces a day and only at meals; and
avoid sweet and sticky foods, serving them only at mealtime.
The American Dental Association also
offers several tips for preventing early childhood cavities, which are often
called Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. Because mothers and caregivers can pass cavity-causing
bacteria to infants by giving them feeding spoons or pacifiers they’ve licked, the
organization suggests mothers and caregivers improve their own oral health and not
share saliva through common use.
Tooth decay does not need to plague your family. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pretty much
sums up the formula for keeping it at bay, stating that a complete preventive dental
program should include fluoride, twice-daily brushing, wise food choices, and regular
dental visits. Follow that plan, and your child will thank you for a healthy smile—and
a healthier future!
Find more information on dental insurance plans.