That makes dental caries the most common disease of childhood. The good news is that it’s very preventable when parents prioritize their kids’ dental health. We’re here to help you do that for your children by identifying the main culprits of childhood tooth decay.
As much as kids love sugary treats, harmful bacteria living on the surfaces of their teeth love them even more. Oral bacteria eat any sugar that remains stuck to the teeth and excrete acid as a waste product. It takes about thirty minutes for saliva to neutralize these acids, so if a child is constantly snacking on something sweet, they’re giving their teeth a never-ending acid bath!
Parents can fight back by swapping some of those sugary snacks for options like sliced fruits and veggies or cheese. This isn’t just healthier for their teeth, but for their whole bodies!
Sugary snacks aren’t the only problem; juice and soda are full of sugar and very acidic. Even milk isn’t sugar-free. Sugary drinks are particularly dangerous to a child’s oral health when they are able to sip on them over a long period of time, as that prevents their saliva from neutralizing the acid and washing away the sugar.
The risk of tooth decay from bottles and sippy cups is so high that it’s earned a few scary nicknames like “baby bottle tooth decay” and “bottle rot.” As with sugary snacks, we encourage parents to limit sugary drinks. We particularly recommend keeping them to mealtimes instead of letting your child carry them around in a bottle or sippy cup for hours. Water is a much better option for that.
There are plenty of other ways to help your child keep their smile cavity-free aside from cutting back on sugar and limiting it to mealtimes. One is modeling good dental hygiene habits for them with your own brushing and flossing. Positive reinforcement and encouragement are also great, as is giving them an explanation about why brushing and flossing matter so much. You can also help make it fun for them by letting them choose a toothbrush they like.
One last tip is to avoid spreading oral bacteria by kissing on the mouth, sharing the same spoon, or cleaning off a dropped pacifier with your mouth. Any of these will introduce more types of bacteria into your child’s mouth.
Even when we do all the right things, kids are sometimes prone to dental health troubles for less controllable reasons like genetics or injuries. That’s why it’s so important to include the dentist when fighting for their cavity-free smile. Dentists have the training and experience to identify oral health problems early on and start fighting back.