According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 25% of children age 2-5 years old have cavities. In fact, pediatric dental disease is the primary reason for children's visits to the ER each year.
So how can you help reduce your child's risk for cavities? We've got a few tips to help you out!
Your child should start seeing the dentist early... around the time their first teeth start erupting and definitely before they turn one! Their first visits will be pretty simple. We're just checking development, looking for visual signs of decay and educating the parents. You can also bring your child with you to routine dental visits (cleaning and exams) to get them used to being in our office. We don't recommend bringing young children to appointments for things such as fillings or crowns!
Caring for your child's baby teeth (or primary teeth) is very important. It is a common misconception that since they'll be losing their baby teeth anyway, it's not a big deal if they have cavities or need to be pulled. However, this is far from true. Baby teeth hold the space for adult teeth. If they are lost too early, it can cause crowding issues with adult teeth. Primary teeth also affect speech and your child's chewing ability. Infections in primary teeth can cause damage to the permanent tooth developing underneath. Therefore, it is important to start good oral hygiene habits early, the bacteria that causes decay will be in their mouth from day 1.
From the time your baby is a few weeks old, start wiping their mouth with a damp washcloth, or purchase one of those nifty finger toothbrushes for infants at the local drugstore. You can use non-fluoride toothpaste until they are old enough to spit, normally around 2 years old. At that time, it's ok to switch to fluoride toothpaste. It's imortant to remember that children lack the dexterity needed to properly brush until they are around 8 years old. You'll need to help them until then. Remember to brush their tongues, as cavity causing bacteria will be there also. This can also help with bad breath.
We know that kids, especially toddlers, often resist toothbrushing. We recommend making it fun. Try making up silly songs, using light-up toothbrushes, etc. Many parents have found that allowing their child to watch in a mirror is helpful, while others find that allowing the child to brush on their own after the parents brush is helpful for those independent kids.