Tooth decay can occur as soon as the first tooth develops in an infant’s mouth. Cavities develop whenever sugar-containing foods remain in the mouth for an extended period of time, and tooth enamel can begin to waste away. Toddler tooth decay is preventable as parents are proactive in encouraging good dental habits early on and managing their child’s food and drink consumption. Find out what toddler tooth decay looks like and how you can protect your child’s oral health with these tips!
Baby teeth play an important role in how children learn to eat and communicate, but oftentimes they get overlooked. Since baby teeth fall out during early to late childhood, many patients don’t take proper care of their baby teeth. Although permanent teeth are those which we will have for the rest of our lives, baby teeth are just as important and need to be maintained. Tooth decay in children is a common occurrence that can be completely avoidable if parents take the right steps to protect young children’s vulnerable teeth. Tooth decay occurs as bacteria eats away at primary (baby) teeth, which causes cavities. A whopping 42% of children ages 2-11 develop a cavity in at least one of their primary teeth, and 28% of young children ages 2-5 will develop a cavity, as well. Cavities develop as sugary and starchy foods remain on the teeth for long periods of time, allowing bacteria to develop and acid begins to eat away at the tooth enamel. White spots develop first as the tooth loses precious minerals, and if left untreated, a cavity will form. Enamel can repair itself with saliva during the first stages of tooth decay, but if it progresses to a cavity, a filling will be necessary to treat the damage.
One of the most common causes of toddler tooth decay is going to bed with a bottle. Milk or juice from your child’s bottle sits in the mouth and on the teeth for long periods of time, allowing bacteria to spread. This is commonly referred to as baby bottle tooth decay and can be detrimental to kids’ teeth. Giving your child a bottle before bed, rather than letting them suck on it all night, and helping them brush their teeth, can help avoid tooth decay. Another way to avoid decay involves limiting the number of snacks your child eats each day, especially sugary ones. The more children eat, the more likely they are to consume sugary foods that can destroy their enamel. Make sure to give your child a limited number of healthy snacks each day and minimize the amount of candy, cookies and soda they consume. Even when they’re little, commit to a good oral hygiene routine with brushing and flossing each day to remove food particles from teeth. Use toothpaste that has fluoride, which prevents mineral loss and reduces the ability for bacteria to create acid. Most community drinking water contains fluoride, which can be another easy way for children to get the fluoride they need to develop strong teeth.
As mentioned, once tooth decay develops into a cavity, dental treatment will be needed to fix the tooth. Children will most likely receive a composite filling to restore a tooth’s strength following a cavity. Fillings are composed of tooth-colored plastics and glass mixtures that are placed in the cavity, one layer at a time. Each layer is cured (hardened) by a special light before the next layer is added to establish durability, and once it’s finished, the dentist polishes the tooth to keep it natural-looking. Silver amalgam fillings are also an option but aren’t as popular since they’re so noticeable. If your child has had a filling, his/her dentist might recommend that they receive dental sealants on their other teeth to help prevent future cavities from forming. Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings that are painted onto the chewing surfaces of teeth to cover the pits and grooves that easily catch food particles. Most sealants are placed on the back teeth, or molars, since toothbrush bristles struggle cleaning those teeth entirely. Visiting with the dentist before, during and after a cavity will allow him/her to monitor your child’s teeth, remove plaque and monitor for any decay. Make sure to schedule a follow-up visit with your child’s dentist so that they can continue their regular check-ups.
The first step in preventing toddler tooth decay begins in the home. When they’re young, help your child brush their teeth each day and teach them how to floss. These will become lifelong skills that they should learn early on to keep their teeth healthy. Show them the importance of caring for their teeth by explaining how the foods we eat affect tooth health and encourage them to make healthy food choices. Your child’s oral health journey begins as soon as their first tooth erupts, so make sure that they start off on the right foot.
At Stonebrook Family Dental, our team is experienced with treating toddler tooth decay and getting children’s teeth back on track. Fixing a cavity can sometimes be a scary experience for children, but we can ensure that your child will receive the utmost comfort and care during their visit. Call our office at (303) 872-7907 to schedule an appointment!