The appearance of a first baby tooth is exciting. But a first cavity in a baby tooth is not a reason to celebrate, for either parents or children. However, cavities are not uncommon.
Although there is no current nationwide data about the number of cavities dentists fill in baby teeth, statistics from the period between 1999 and 2004 confirm that about one-quarter of children aged two to five had dental caries, and more than half of kids between the ages of six to eleven had fillings. It is unlikely that the percentages have changed a great deal since then because they have been relatively constant since they were first tabulated in the early 1970s.
Dentistry for Children in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada, specializes in modern techniques and painless fillings, but Dr. Maryam Sima and associates also urge parents to begin teaching good habits to children early in order to prevent cavities.
The path to early brushing
Parents should gently massage an infant’s gums and gently brush baby teeth as soon as they appear. We also recommend a first visit to the dentist before a child’s first birthday.
When the child is old enough to hold a toothbrush and sit or stand in front of a mirror, a parent can help to maneuver the brush over the teeth and along the gums. As a toddler demonstrates interest in holding the toothbrush on his own, make a game of brushing your teeth together. Place a small amount of toothpaste on the brush, and show your child the proper way to move the brush around his mouth.
Then playfully rinse and spit until the youngster becomes adept enough to attempt the whole process alone. Offer encouragement and extend the brushing time a little at a time. It’s the regularity that’s important at first, not the duration of the brushing.
Encourage good habits before and after a cavity is filled
If your child does develop a cavity or two, there is no need for panic. Cavities in baby teeth can be filled quickly and painlessly with little chance of complication. Most children’s dentists today use white filling material, and nobody is likely to notice the filling.
If your child has had regular dental appointments, there is little reason he will fear having a cavity filled. The child may experience some soreness or sensitivity to heat or cold, but they are not likely to last. It’s wise to avoid citrus drinks immediately following the appointment, and gentle gum massage or brushing with a soft brush can be helpful. Tenderness should disappear within a few days at most.
Effective dental hygiene stems from good habits, and it’s what you do after the cavity is filled that will make a difference in the lives of older children and young adults.
Recommendations for childhood routine
Just as for adults, children should be encouraged to brush their teeth for a full two minutes morning and night. Children typically need some help, or at least attentive supervision, until they are at least seven or eight years old.
Flossing is vital, and a handled flosser is usually the best way to instill that habit.
Fluoride is instrumental in preventing cavities, both for children and adults, so the use of fluoride toothpaste is recommended even if your water supply is treated. Check with your dentist about the desirability of topical fluoride treatments or sealants to prevent cavities. And don’t forget to schedule those twice-yearly appointments for cleaning and routine exams.
Other important aspects of dental hygiene
In addition to brushing, flossing, and regular checkups, be aware of any unusual spots on your child’s teeth, and never ignore complaints about aches, pains, or sensitivity to heat and cold. Tooth grinding during sleep can be a symptom worth investigating.
Finally, know the importance of a proper diet, and limit the child’s intake of sugar and soft drinks. Drinking water should be encouraged, especially following sweets or after eating sticky foods.
Call Dentistry for Children or use our convenient online form to contact us at either the Las Vegas E. Silverado Ranch Boulevard location or at our Henderson location on North Green Valley Parkway.