Preventing tooth decay doesn’t stop with brushing and flossing. As a parent, you have more control than you may think regarding your child’s likelihood of developing cavities in baby or permanent teeth. An astounding one in five children in the U.S. currently have untreated tooth decay, and the burden may seem great, but these strategies give you the power to help prevent tooth decay now and create a smile that lasts a lifetime.
1. Know your child’s cavity risk level
Lifestyle, health, and socioeconomic factors can increase the risk of decaying teeth. Evaluating these risks allows you and your child to take control of various tooth decay factors to reduce risk. For example, a child with the following illnesses may be at increased risk:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2
- Cancer, particularly if receiving radiation
- Osteoporosis or other conditions that may impact your child’s bone health
Improving how you and your child manage these conditions can help prevent pediatric tooth decay in yourself or a loved one for whom you may be caring. On the lifestyle side of things, drinking lots of soft drinks and juice and failing to brush and floss increase your risk, but addressing these lifestyle choices reduces your risk profile.
2. Teach proper brushing and flossing techniques
You already know the importance of brushing and flossing, so we don’t have to list that as a tip, but are you doing it properly? Just as importantly, are you teaching your child to brush and floss properly? Many people are not.
You should be brushing for at least two minutes after every meal, but at the very least in the morning and before bed to reduce the level of acid and harmful bacteria that remain on your teeth. You should brush gently to avoid inflaming and damaging the gums. In two minutes, you should be able to go over every tooth on the front, back, and top several times, which reduces the risk of missing a spot.
When it comes to flossing, work with your children because they may be tempted to pull a piece of floss back and forth like a saw, which cuts into the gums. Instead, follow these tips:
- Work the floss in between two teeth slowly
- Create a “C” around one of the teeth so that the floss is folded over the front and back of the tooth
- Gently carry the floss down the tooth into the gumline and back out
- Repeat the “C” on the other tooth
- Pull the floss straight up or down to remove it, never out like a string.
- Adjust the floss so that a clean stretch of floss is used between each set of teeth
Floss at least once a day. Your child should also learn to brush the tongue to remove bacteria. Supervise brushing and flossing for most children up to age six or seven until you’re confident they’re doing it right. Pop in on occasion after that to ensure they don’t fall into bad habits that they may learn from friends or relatives.
3. Drink more fluoridated water
Water not only hydrates the body, but drinking more of it makes it easier to reduce the number of sugary or acidic drinks your child consumes. Introduce “plain” water early, avoiding water flavoring, which adds acid and potentially harmful chemicals to the water. If you and your child don’t drink water from the tap, your child may need fluoride supplements or regular fluoride treatments, which have been shown to significantly reduce tooth decay in children.
4. Schedule regular dental checkups
From the moment that first tooth breaks through, it’s time to begin scheduling regular visits to the dentist for your child. This way, Dr. Sina can catch health challenges or issues early. Tooth decay in baby teeth can quickly spread to permanent ones if untreated.
Keep your child on track for a healthy smile that lasts a lifetime. Contact Dentistry for Children to schedule an appointment.