It is very crucial to keep track of your child’s oral health, especially in its early stages. How healthy their teeth would become at their life depends on how you care for them in these early years.
Early childhood tooth decay(cavities)
Early childhood tooth decay refers to the development of cavities in children from 6 months to 6 years of age. Once your child has teeth, they are at risk for tooth decay. Tooth decay is caused by many factors including the bacteria that normally reside in the mouth. Without treatment, decay can spread deeper into the tooth, causing pain and infection, and even damage to the underlying adult tooth. The baby tooth or teeth may need to be removed.
Factors that contribute to tooth decay
Frequent snacking especially on sticky and sugary foods, constant use of baby bottles and not brushing your child’s teeth will contribute to early childhood tooth decay.
According to the Canadian Dental Association, the damage that sugar does to teeth depends on how much sugar goes into the mouth and how long it stays in the mouth. When your child eats or drinks sugars, the germs (bacteria) in your child’s mouth mix with the sugars to make a mild acid. This acid attacks the hard outer layer of teeth (also called enamel) to form cavities.
If your child is always sipping juice or snacking on sticky, sugary snacks between meals, the teeth are being coated in sugars over and over again. Tooth decay can also develop when a child is put to bed with a bottle of milk or juice as the liquid stays in the mouth, bathing the teeth in sugar for a long time.
Tooth decay prevention
In order to prevent cavity build up and rise of bacteria in your child’s mouth, the American Dental Association published some tips for you to consider:
1. Practice good dental care – this includes gently cleaning your baby’s mouth using a soft baby toothbrush or wet face cloth. Lift the lip so you can see along the gum line when cleaning and look for white or brown spots which may be early signs of tooth decay.
2. Water between feedings – When feeding your child, it’s best to offer water between feeding times and for thirst.
3. Use fluoride toothpaste – Decay can happen as soon as teeth first appear. If you see some pearly whites peeking out when your little one smiles, it’s time to pick up a tube of fluoride toothpaste.
4. Amount of toothpaste to use – at 0-3 years of age, it’s recommended to only use about a grain of rice of toothpaste as you brush your child’s teeth. At ages 3 and above, it can be increased to a pea-sized amount.
5. Schedule a dental visit as soon as the first tooth appears – It’s another milestone in a year of exciting firsts. Your child’s first dental visit should take place after their first tooth appears, but no later than the first birthday. Why so early? As soon as your baby has teeth, they can get cavities
6. Kids need to floss too – It doesn’t matter if you clean between your child’s teeth before or after they brush as long as you clean between any teeth that touch. You can use child-friendly plastic flossing tools to more easily clean between your child’s teeth until your child learns to do it.
7. Never put your baby to bed with a bottle – Baby bottle tooth decay most often occurs in the upper front teeth (but other teeth may also be affected). Frequent, prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to drinks that contain sugar can cause tooth decay. This can happen when the baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby.
8. Care don’t share – the next time your child’s pacifier goes flying, don’t pick it up and put it in your mouth because you think that makes it cleaner. Cavity-causing bacteria can be passed through saliva, so you could actually be introducing germs to your child instead of protecting him or her from them. The same goes for mealtime. It can be second nature to offer a bite of your food to your baby from your fork or use their spoon to make sure their food is ready to eat. Keep your utensils, and your germs, separate for healthy mouth and body.