Cavities are little holes in teeth that can result in big problems. I’ve worked as a pediatric dentist in Flower Mound for 24 years, and I have noticed an upward trend in the amount of cavities in our neighborhood, as more of the big problems that are associated with them are left untreated.
What’s worse than going to a dentist? Seeing a young child go into sedation or surgery because they have a mouthful of cavities.
We recently had a case where half of a toddler’s teeth had significant tooth decay, and this poor child required anesthesia for the subsequent extractions, nerve treatments, fillings and crowns. Unfortunately, these types of cases are becoming more and more common.
The CDC notes that dentists across the country are seeing more preschoolers with more than 6 cavities per case than they were just a few years ago. And before you think this is may be a result of demographics, realize that it holds true across all income levels and geographic locations across the US..
Approximately 37 percent of children aged 2-8 years have dental caries in their primary teeth, and more than one-third of those will go untreated. A staggering 21 percent of children aged 6-11 have already had cavities in their permanent teeth.
Whatever can we do?!
Even baby teeth need to be treated
Many parents are simply uninformed, not understanding why primary teeth need to be treated when they have tooth decay. After all, they are just going to fall out within a couple years anyway. Why bother?
Before addressing the big problems that result from little holes in teeth, it’s important to establish the importance of good oral hygiene habits from the very beginning. Parents who emphasize daily brushing from day one and encourage good habits will see the fruits of their labor in later years, when their children take care of their teeth themselves. This not only makes parenting easier, but will also significantly reduce your cost out of pocket expenses and help protect them for the rest of their lives. Isn’t that the role of a good parent?
Primary teeth may not last forever, but they are needed while they are there. Here are some of the complications that can arise from tooth decay in primary baby teeth:
- They can be painful.
- They can lead to infections that not only cause problems with more teeth, but can require urgent, expensive treatment. Bacteria can invade other areas and cause health complications and reduced general immunity.
- Impede speech development and hurt a child’s self esteem.
- Have you ever had a tooth ache? Children may avoid eating healthy food because it hurts their sensitive, damaged teeth.
- Affect jaw development, cause overbites, and create alignment problems that will result in the need for orthodontia later. Primary teeth hold space for permanent teeth and help the jawbone develop correctly.
5 Things You Can Do To Protect Your Children’s Teeth
Tooth decay is the most prevalent health problem for children in the United States.
Fortunately, it’s also the most preventable. Here are a few things you should do to get your children on the path to a lifelong, healthy smile.
- Start early. When should you start the brushing routine? Before baby teeth even appear, you should begin by gently wiping the mouth and gums every day with a clean, warm cloth. Once teeth start to appear, baby should have their first tooth brush and Mom and Dad should be brushing those little teeth twice per day, particularly after meals.
- Use fluoride. All toothpastes with the ADA Seal of Acceptance must contain fluoride, a mineral that will greatly reduce the risk of dental decay.
- Drink water. Never put juice or soda in the baby bottle. There’s no benefit to doing so. Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle unless it contains water (preferably fluoridated). Even breast milk in a bottle can lead to much higher likelihoods of tooth decay, a problem known as baby bottle syndrome.
- Make brushing a team effort. As your young child begins to brush on their own, it’s important to brush with them to encourage the positive habit formation, You can also make sure they are brushing correctly and long enough to do a good job. It’s also a good idea to get a children’s-sized electric toothbrush that will greatly improve the efficacy of their brushing.
- Visit the dentist regularly. Your child should see the dentist by their first birthday. The earlier any problems are detected, the better the outlook will be. Our pediatric dental team can make sure that everything is developing properly, ensure cleaning efforts are sufficient, and help acclimate your child to the environment.
Help your child, help yourself.
I encourage families to brush their teeth together. Children of any age can be lacking in their oral hygiene discipline, so simply telling them to “go brush their teeth” isn’t always enough, and you likely won’t realize it until after the damage has been done. Even most adults aren’t diligent enough, so if you make sure your kids are brushing properly by doing it with them, you’ll be doing yourself a favor.
If you have questions about how to prevent or deal with cavities in your family, we are here to help. We can also help you find the perfect children’s-sized electric toothbrush, as we carry a variety of options in practice!
So what are you waiting for? Give us a call and schedule your child’s next appointment, or give them a leg-up on their oral health care with an electric toothbrush.