How do you stop tooth decay in children?
As dentists, we get it: You wish your kids came with an owner’s manual. There’s so much you need to know and do to safeguard their health. And it helps to start when they’re young: By encouraging healthy dental care now, you set them up for a lifetime of healthy teeth and beautiful smiles.
We applaud you for taking the effort to learn more about your children’s dental health. It’s never too early to take them to a dentist — we recommend bringing in babies when their teeth start coming in, or at their first birthday. Early prevention is key to setting them on the path to great dental health. It’s the secret to developing a smile you and your dentist can be proud of.
Here’s what you need to know to help your children maintain beautiful smiles — how to stop tooth decay in children.
When Should Kids Start Brushing?
The truth is great dental care begins early — before a baby’s first tooth appears. You might not see the tooth, but a child’s teeth first begin to form in the second trimester of pregnancy, below the gumline. Believe it or not, but your child has 20 primary teeth the minute they’re born, many of which are fully developed in the jawbone.
That’s why we recommend cleaning babies’ gums with a clean, damp washcloth to clear away harmful bacteria — even before a baby starts teething. Once they have teeth, dentists recommend brushing your baby’s new teeth with an infant toothbrush. All it takes is a speck of toothpaste designed for babies. We recommend using fluoride toothpaste when a child can spit the paste out of their mouth.
Watch Sleeping with a Bottle
There are sugars in both formula and breast milk that can be harmful to a child’s teeth. Avoid letting them sleep with a bottle at night. Mouth bacteria can actually produce acids from the milk that can cause baby bottle tooth decay. By the age of 12 months, begin switching your child to a cup. At this age, frequent bottle feedings increase your child’s risk of tooth decay.
Take Advantage of Fluoride
Fluoride is one of your best defenses against tooth decay in children. In fact, it can even reverse tooth decay in the early stages, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Fluoride is a perfectly natural and safe mineral that helps remineralize and strengthen teeth. At our dental office in Middleburg Heights, we provide fluoride treatments to both children and adults.
Dentists also recommend encouraging children to drink plenty of tap water (over bottled water). Many municipalities including Middleburg Heights and Cleveland supplement their city’s water supplies with fluoride. Drinking simple tap water is actually great for your teeth and dental health.
Give Your Children Dental Sealants
Sealants deliver a protective coating to teeth, providing a smooth surface to cover up the nooks and crannies of back teeth. This prevents bacteria and plaque from getting stuck to the uneven surface of the molars.
You’re probably aware of how bad soft drinks are for your kids’ teeth. (There are as many as 10 teaspoons of sugar in a single glass of soda pop!) But did you know that juice can also be hard on kids’ teeth? Juice isn’t a part of a healthy diet. It doesn’t have the healthy fiber of fruit and it packs more calories and sugar. Juice is also absorbed differently. Many so-called juices are actually little more than water, a little juice flavor, and loads of sugar. Juice can also be highly acidic, which is hard on children’s teeth.
When you give your kids juice, dentists recommend you water it down. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises no more than 4 fl oz (120 mL) to 6 fl oz (180 mL) of 100% fruit juice a day for children 1 to 6 years old (roughly ½ cup to ¾ cup).
Brush Kids’ Teeth Regularly
You know how important it is to brush. Dentists recommend that kids and adults brush their teeth twice a day for two-minute each time. It can be challenging to get kids to brush, but moms and dads have their tricks. Get your child a fun toothbrush. Use a toothbrushing app that makes a game out of brushing and times how long they brush. Set a regular time for brushing (right after breakfast and as part of the bedtime routine).