It's a sad fact that many children of pre-school age suffer from tooth decay and cavities. So, what's causing this problem, and how can you protect your child's teeth from premature decay? Read on to find out more.
What causes childhood tooth decay and cavities?
The primary cause of avoidable childhood tooth decay is a diet containing high levels of foods that are high in sugary carbohydrates. The bacteria that live in the mouth and feed on the sugar contained in these foodstuffs deplete the teeth's calcium and erode their structure. As soon as an area with degraded calcium becomes large enough, the tooth surface collapses and a cavity is formed.
How can you protect your child's teeth?
The most obvious way of protecting your child's teeth is by limiting the amount of sugary foods that are contained in the youngster's diet. For example, some fizzy drinks and pure fruit juices contain extremely high levels of sugar, so substitute them for fresh water instead. Instead of allowing your child to eat sweets and chocolate every day, make these items a weekly treat and give fresh fruit instead.
Very young children are often keen to brush their own teeth, but they may not be dexterous enough to do the job properly. Encourage your child to brush their teeth, but make sure that you help them to ensure all the tooth surfaces are covered, including the insides. A powered toothbrush may be a good idea if your child struggles to brush their teeth thoroughly. There are brands available that feature flashing lights, cartoon characters, and even play music, all of which make brushing a fun experience.
It's better for your child's teeth to use non-whitening toothpaste. Brands that have whitening properties often contain harsh abrasive substances that can damage young teeth, leaving them vulnerable to damage by plaque and cavity formation. It's a good idea to use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride works by strengthening tooth enamel, therefore making it more resistant to the acid that bacteria produce.
If possible, persuade your child to floss before brushing their teeth. This will help to loosen food particles and plaque, making brushing more effective. Ask at your dental practice for large-handled flossers that are specially designed and themed for kids; these can help motivate your child to include flossing in their daily tooth care routine.
Many parents are unsure when to begin taking their child to the dentist. It's recommended that your child has a first dental check-up before their first birthday, followed by six monthly visits thereafter. These routine visits to the dental practice are extremely important, as the better your child's oral health in the early years, the more chance there will be of having strong, healthy teeth in adulthood.
Help to protect your child's teeth from decay and cavities by following the tips above. Your local dental practice will also be able to give you sound advice on how to look after your child's teeth in between routine check-up visits.