Cavities are among the most common chronic pediatric illnesses in the U.S. Untreated cavities can cause pain, infections, and problems eating, speaking, playing, and learning. In addition, poor dental health can cause school absences and lower grades.
More than half of 6 to 8-year-olds have a cavity in a baby tooth.
50% of 12 to 19-year-olds had a permanent tooth cavity.
5-19-year-olds from low-income families are twice as likely to have cavities (25%).
Tooth decay is preventable. Fluoride varnish helps prevent one-third of newborn tooth decay. Fluoridated tap water reduces cavities in youngsters. Fluoride-using kids have fewer cavities.
Sealants have long prevented tooth decay. For example, applying sealants to the back teeth can prevent 80% of cavities.
The Role of Parents and Caregivers
- Using a soft, clean cloth, wipe gums twice daily in the morning after the first feeding and before night to remove cavity-causing bacteria and carbohydrates.
- Start brushing twice a day with a soft, small-bristled toothbrush and plain water as soon as teeth erupt.
- Visit the dentist by your child’s first birthday to identify any issues early.
- As soon as your child’s first tooth erupts, consult with your dentist or physician about using fluoride varnish.
Consult your pediatrician or dentist before using fluoride toothpaste on children younger than 2 years old.
- They should brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice daily.
- Fluoride-containing drinking water.
- Request that your child’s dentist apply dental sealants when necessary.
If your youngster is younger than six, supervise their brushing. Ensure that kids use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and spit it out instead of swallowing it. Assist your child in developing proper brushing techniques.
On the CDC’s My Water’s Fluoride website, you may view your water system to determine if your community’s water is fluoridated. You can also acquire a copy of your water utility’s most current “Consumer Confidence Report” by calling the provider. This report gives information about the fluoride concentration in your drinking water.
Ask your dentist, pediatrician, family doctor, or nurse if your child requires oral fluoride supplements such as drops, tablets, or lozenges if your drinking water does not contain enough fluoride to prevent cavities (the recommended quantity of 0.7 milligrams per Liter).
How to keep your child’s teeth in good shape
When should I take my child to the dentist for the first time? Should my three-year-old child floss? How can I determine if my child requires braces?
Many parents have difficulty determining how much dental care their children require. They are aware that they wish to prevent cavities, but they do not always know how to do it effectively. Here are some tips and guidelines.
When Should Young Children Begin Brushing Their Teeth?
Before a child’s first tooth erupts, they should receive proper dental care. Even though you cannot see the teeth, that does not mean they do not exist. The formation of teeth begins during the second trimester of pregnancy. Your infant is born with 20 primary teeth, some of which are fully grown.
Here is when and how to care for those tiny teeth:
- Before your baby begins teething, wipe the gums with a clean, damp washcloth to remove dangerous bacteria.
- When your baby acquires teeth, use an infant toothbrush to clean them. Utilize water and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice). Utilize toothpaste bearing the American Dental Association’s (ADA) mark of approval. (If you are using fluoride-free baby toothpaste, maintain the exact dosage because you still want to minimize the amount of toothpaste consumed.)
- When two of your infant’s teeth come together, you can begin flossing between them.
- Your youngster should learn to spit while brushing around the age of two. However, avoid giving your child water to swish and spit, as this can increase the likelihood of swallowing toothpaste.
- Children beyond the age of 3 should only use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Always supervise children under the age of eight as they clean their teeth, as they may ingest toothpaste.
Even infants can develop dental decay. Using a bottle to put a baby to sleep can be detrimental to the youngster’s teeth. When sugars from juice, formula, or milk remain on a baby’s teeth for several hours, they can erode the enamel (the layer of the tooth that protects against tooth decay). This might result in “infant bottle teeth decay” or “bottle mouth.” The anterior teeth might become discolored, pitted, and pocked when this occurs. Cavities may develop, and the rotted teeth may need to be extracted in extreme circumstances.
At six months, infants can transfer from a bottle to a sippy cup (with a straw or hard spout). This prevents liquid from accumulating around the teeth of a youngster. By their first birthday, they will have developed the motor skills and coordination necessary to utilize a cup independently.
When Should a Child Visit the Dentist?
The American Dental Association recommended that youngsters visit a dentist by their first birthday. The dentist will explain correct brushing and flossing procedures and do a modified exam while your infant sits on your lap during your initial visit.
These visits can aid in the early detection of abnormalities and acclimate children to dental visits, reducing their anxiety as they grow older. Consider visiting a pediatric dentist for your child’s dental care. Pediatric dentists are educated to address a wide variety of children’s oral health issues. They also understand when to send you to another specialist, such as an orthodontist to fix an overbite or an oral surgeon to realign the jaw.
Suppose a kid is at risk for cavities or other dental issues. The dentist may begin applying topical fluoride even before all permanent teeth erupt (this can also be done in the pediatrician’s office). Fluoride helps prevent the most prevalent pediatric oral illness, dental cavities, by strengthening tooth enamel (also called dental caries).
What Dental Issues Can Occur?
If you are prone to tooth decay or gum disease, your children may also be at increased risk. So even the best brushing and flossing routines cannot always prevent cavities. If your child complains of dental ache, which could indicate an untreated cavity, contact your dentist immediately.
Thanks to new materials, pediatric dentists have more filling and repair options than ever before. Silver-colored amalgam (a specific mixture of metals) was initially the filling material of choice for most permanent teeth. However, other materials, such as composite resins, are gaining popularity. Resins attach to the teeth to prevent fillings from falling out and can also be used to restore teeth that have been damaged by trauma or disorders such as cleft palate. In addition, because resins are frequently tooth-colored, they are deemed more appealing.
However, dentists frequently opt for stainless steel or ceramic crowns when an infant’s teeth are fractured, severely decayed, or malformed. Crowns preserve the tooth while limiting the progression of deterioration.
In a few unusual cases, typically, a dentist may propose general anesthesia when a more complex dental operation is to be performed. Before agreeing to the procedure, parents should confirm that the person administering the drug is a trained anesthesiologist or oral surgeon. Don’t be frightened; ask your dentist questions.
Regular dental examinations and good oral hygiene can minimize the need for such expensive dental work. In addition, encourage your children to use a mouthguard when participating in sports, as this can prevent catastrophic dental injuries.
How can we prevent tooth decay?
Cavities develop when bacteria and food particles are not removed from the teeth after eating. The acid accumulates on a tooth, eroding its enamel until a cavity forms:
- Start young with good oral hygiene. Teach children to use fluoride-containing toothpaste and floss regularly.
- Get adequate fluoride. Regular fluoride use strengthens enamel, making it more resistant to acid attack. Although many municipalities mandate the fluoridation of tap water, others do not. Ask your dentist for fluoride supplements if your water source is not fluoridated or your household drinks filtered water. Most toothpaste contains fluoride. However, fluoride alone is insufficient to protect a child’s teeth completely. Be cautious, however, because much fluoride can discolor teeth. Consult your dentist before taking supplements.
- Avoid or limit certain foods. Sugary foods, liquids, and candies (particularly sticky gummy candies, gummy vitamins, fruit leather, or “rolls”) can erode enamel and create cavities. If your children consume these meals, instruct them to rinse their mouths or brush their teeth to remove the sugar. Similarly, children should always rinse or clean their teeth after administering sweetened liquid medications.
As your child’s permanent teeth erupt, the dentist can prevent cavities by placing a thin coating of resin (called a sealant) on the biting surfaces of the rear teeth. This protective covering prevents bacteria from settling in the molars’ inaccessible nooks. However, ensure that children understand that sealants are not substitutes for regular brushing and flossing.
What are the Factors Associated with Cavities?
Your child’s likelihood of developing cavities increases if:
- Family members (older siblings, parents, and siblings) have cavities.
- They consume many sugary foods and beverages, such as soda, especially between meals.
- They have unique health care requirements.
- They wear orthodontic braces or oral appliances.
If any of these apply to your child, consult your dentist, pediatrician, or family doctor to ensure that you take extra precautions to safeguard their teeth.
What Is Orthodontic Treatment?
As children mature, their bite and tooth alignment might become problematic. Today, orthodontic treatment begins earlier than in the past, and braces have also evolved. The embarrassing old apparatus, a mouth full of metal wires and braces, no longer exists. As of now, children as young as seven years old wear corrective devices, and plastic-based (often transparent) materials have replaced metal.
Orthodontists are aware that teeth manipulation at a younger age can be easier and more successful. In addition, young children’s teeth can be aligned with relatively modest orthodontic devices, thereby reducing the need for extensive treatment later on.
What Are Dental Sealants ?
Dental sealants are thin coverings that can prevent cavities (tooth decay) for many years. Sealants preserve chewing surfaces by blocking germs and food. Sealants prevent 80% of cavities for 2 years and 50% for 4 years. 1 Without sealants, 6 to 11-year-olds have three times more first molar cavities.
A dentist, dental hygienist, or another trained dental professional can apply sealants depending on state law. This can be done in dentist offices or with portable equipment in schools.
From 1999–to 2004 through 2011–to 2016, low-income children used sealant 75% more than high-income children. However, this decisive intervention is underutilized. Less than half of 6-11-year-olds have sealants. 2 Low-income kids are 15% less likely to obtain sealants and have double the cavities. Untreated cavities can cause discomfort, infection, eating, speaking, and learning issues.
School sealant programs are an excellent technique to seal children’s teeth who don’t get private dental care. In addition, sealants for high-risk youngsters save money. Each sealed tooth saves $11 in dental bills. 3 Sealants in schools could prevent 3 million cavities and save $300 million in dental costs for 7 million low-income youngsters. 3,4 The CDC funds 20 states and 1 territory for oral health program infrastructure and school sealant programs.
Depending on your dentist’s suggestions, dental checkups should be scheduled once every three months to once a year as your child grows. Good dental health will result from limiting sugary meals, supporting regular brushing and flossing, and collaborating with your dentist.