The way your little angel smiles at you makes your heart melt. So, naturally, you want to keep your child smiling.
On an emotional and a mental level, you’re focused on making your child feel loved and protecting them from one day to the next. But on a more practical level, are you taking extra steps to protect their pearly whites, too?
Research shows that tooth decay affects between 60-90% of school-aged children in the majority of the world’s industrialised countries, even though it’s largely preventable.
If you’re looking for ways to ensure that your young child doesn’t get cavities, here’s a rundown on 10 cavity prevention tips for early childhood.
Let’s get started!
1. Stay Away from Sugary Drinks
You enjoy a sweet drink every once in a while — or maybe even more frequently. So, you may think it’s only fair that your little one enjoys some sweet drinks, too.
Unfortunately, in your effort to treat your child, you’re actually causing them more harm than good. That’s because misusing a baby bottle can cause tooth decay along with other dental problems.
As a general rule of thumb, you should never put sugary drinks in your child’s bottles.
If your child has already become accustomed to sugary drinks, wean them off of them by diluting the sugary drinks with water. Then, gradually add more water until they are drinking water only. Food dye can be added to make the water interesting or using a special swirly straw!
2. Avoid Bottles at Bedtime
If your young one is a baby, you may be tempted to leave a milk-filled bottle with them at bedtime. Whatever it takes to keep them happy and therefore keep you sleeping longer, right?
Sure, bedtime bottles might comfort your child. But they can be extremely destructive to the teeth.
When sugar from milk or formula remains in your child’s mouth, this can result in dental decay and thus pain.
So, try to create a nighttime routine that involves no bottles in bed. For instance, give your child a favourite toy or security blanket to take to bed. Or play relaxing music.
You can also read a story to your child, give them a nice back rub, or rock them to keep them content at bedtime without a bottle.
If your child absolutely has to have a bottle at night, keep it filled with water only.
In addition, if your child is nursing, avoid prolonged nursing, and don’t allow him to fall fast asleep during nursing. After all, breast milk contains sugar, too.
Also, begin to teach your child to use sippy cups when they reach between 6 months and 12 months of age. By the time your child turns one they should definitely be using training cups.
Finally, don’t let your child walk around the house with a bottle in hand. This will only encourage them to constantly take sips and thus inundate their teeth with sugar that sticks around and potentially causes cavities and decay.
3. Start Brushing and Flossing as a Family
When your child gets a little older, an excellent way to encourage them to brush their teeth is to brush with them. You can also leave brushes in the kitchen and instruct them to brush while you are cleaning the kitchen after dinner!
However, brushing alongside your child isn’t just a great way to establish a solid oral health care routine at home. It also gives you a chance to monitor your child’s brushing habits.
Don’t forget to floss also!
Living in a non fluoridated area like Yarra Glen means children are missing out on fluoridated drinking water. One of the best ways to compensate is to get your children to spit out the excess toothpaste but not rinse afterwards. This is known as the “spit no-rinse” technique.
4. Choose a Child-Friendly Dental Office
One of the most critical cavity prevention steps you can take for your little one is to get them into a child friendly dental practice s soon as possible.
Ideally, you should have a dental practice picked out for your child before their first birthday. Then, take your child to the dentist every six months for routine checkups.
Going to the dentist will help your child to prevent dental decay.. Or if your child ends up developing decay, their dentist can treat it right away. Tooth decay and cavities should be addressed quickly because it causes pain and it is an infectious disease, so it spreads.
5. Start Oral Cleanings Early
Even if your child is only an infant, they still need their teeth cleaned just as much as older children do.
Simply use a damp, clean cloth to clean their gums. Doing this actually improves the prognosis for healthy teeth before they even erupt. It also familiarises your child with proper oral care while they are very young.
6. Promote Healthy Eating
A particularly effective way to improve the health of your child’s mouth is to get them to eat healthier foods.
Here are some excellent food options for a healthy mouth:
- Leafy greens
Vegetables and fruits are water dense and help to stimulate saliva production in the mouth. As a result, it produces saliva which helps to harden the teeth.
In addition, foods containing calcium — like dairy products — help to strengthen your child’s tooth enamel and thus defend the teeth against cavities. This is because these foods neutralise the destructive acids that can eat away at the teeth (more on that next).
7. Avoid Sweet Foods
Sweet foods like chocolate biscuits have a tendency to become lodged in the grooves of the teeth. And if your child doesn’t brush properly, these foods become a source of sugar for tooth decay-causing bacteria.
Cavities form when bacteria utilise starch and sugar to generate acids. These acids eventually cause the enamel to become worn out, and as a result, holes start to develop in the teeth.
So, try to avoid giving your child the following food and drink items:
- Sweet biscuits
- Soft drinks
- Dried fruits
Of course, it’s not realistic to totally eliminate these foods and drinks for your child’s diet. However, you should try to minimise their consumption as much as possible.
Also, if your child does consume these starchy items, have them brush and floss afterward.
8. Rinse the Mouth with Water
Rinsing the mouth out with water is another smart move for protecting your child’s teeth from cavities. Your child can simply swish with water to eliminate any food debris remaining in their mouth after a meal.
This is especially important following meals filled with starchy items.
Rinsing with water does two things. First, it flushes out food that allow bacteria to grow, and it helps neutralise acids.
Second, it helps to repair weak enamel, as water contains invaluable minerals that the teeth need to remain strong.
Using water is also a wise move when your child cannot immediately access mouthwash or a toothbrush.
If your child drinks fluoridated tap water, this will provide additional protection against tooth decay and cavities.
9. Don’t Swap Spit
Keep in mind that bacteria in the mouth can spread through the sharing of beverages and food.
So, to keep your child from swapping harmful bacteria with other people, teach them to avoid sharing food and drinks.
10. Spring for Sealants
Finally, ask Dr de Castella, a children’s dentistry specialist, about sealants for the secondary teeth which can help prevent cavities in the grooves of the back teeth.
Dental sealants are essentially plastic coatings placed on the back teeth’s chewing surfaces. They prevent food and bacteria from building up and causing decay in the grooves of the teeth.
These non-invasive coatings are usually simple to apply, so the procedure should be quick and easy for your child.
How We Can Help with Cavity Prevention
Yarra Valley Dental is a leading provider of top-of-the-line dental services for the entire family.
We know that poor dental hygiene in your children can lead to problems like cavities causing tooth loss and severe pain. Your child could also end up with space loss for their adult teeth, speech problems, dental phobia and poor self-esteem.
That’s why we are passionate about examining and treating children of all ages. Our services for children include cleanings, fillings, sealants and even extractions where required.
Get in touch with us to find out more cavity prevention tips and how we can keep your child smiling bright for years to come.