A Parent’s Guide to Dental Decay in Children and How to Avoid it

Our Dental Blog | Child Dentistry | 08.13.2019

You might think that dentists sound like broken records when they say that daily brushing and flossing must be supported by periodic visits to the dentist for regular cleanings. But the fact is, there aren’t enough reminders in the world to drive this point — and it’s especially important for your little ones. That’s because instilling good oral hygiene habits in their formative years can lead to lifelong prevention of tooth decay, cavities, gum disease, and a world of other dental issues.

Anyone can develop tooth decay at any age without proper dental care, but kids who are in their primary stages of development and just acquainting themselves with cavity-causing sweets are at higher risk for dental decay. That’s why it’s important not just to get them in the habit of brushing and flossing, but also to see a children’s dentist twice a year.

Here’s everything you need to know about tooth decay and how it affects the mouth in general; plus, we’ll offer our best tips for dealing with tooth decay and preventing it from happening:

It’s All in the Mouth

The mouth is where it all starts; so much food and drink pass through the mouth, leaving it constantly exposed to dangerous bacteria. For children especially, sugary foods combined with poor oral hygiene habits put them at high risk of dental decay. It only takes one decaying tooth to affect the rest of the mouth, so it’s important to get it treated at the first sign.

We might not realize it, but the mouth harbours a lot of bacteria, and without proper oral hygiene and regular dental cleanings, the unhealthy atmosphere can quickly promote dental decay and diseases. That’s why it’s best to schedule regular cleanings for kids at least twice a year, or as advised by your children’s dentist. Not only do thorough cleanings get rid of plaque buildup and bacteria accumulating in the mouth, but the accompanying dental exam allows your child’s dentist to spot early signs of decay and prevent them from turning into full-blown oral health problems.

How Dental Decay Develops

We already know that daily eating and drinking causes plaque and bacteria to build up in the mouth. Since these essential activities cannot be avoided, maintaining proper oral hygiene at home is the number one way to prevent this buildup.

Without proper brushing and flossing, the food particles and sugar that stick to teeth remain there. Over time, this leads to the formation of plaque, which secretes the acid that causes tooth decay. The longer that plaque is left unremoved, the more acid forms that will eventually attack the teeth. But it doesn’t end there — plaque buildup also causes the enamel on the surface of the teeth to degrade. As this happens, small holes known as cavities will form. Despite starting on the surface, dental decay spreads throughout the tooth until it infects the centre of the tooth and potentially adjacent teeth as well.

This is why it’s important to instill good oral hygiene habits in children as early as possible. Children’s dentists know all about the challenges that parents go through when teaching kids to brush and floss when they are toddlers, so getting them used to these habits even as they just start teething allows them to learn to stick to a proper routine in their formative years, all the way to adulthood.

Keep an Eye Out for Sugar

All types of food leave particles in the mouth. However, certain types of foods put kids at higher risk of developing dental decay than others.

It’s no secret that the number one enemy of a healthy diet and good dental health in kids is sugar. Sugary treats like chocolate and candy are prone to sticking to the surface of teeth, while drinks like soda are high in acid. Both cause plaque buildup, cavity formation, and eventually, full-blown tooth decay. Plus, these sugary foods are already low in essential nutrients, so children’s dentists recommend swapping them out for healthy alternatives; doing so not only leads to better prevention of tooth decay but better overall health.

Here are just some of the sugary treats that kids love but their teeth don’t:

  • Soda, even diet or sugar-free options
  • Candy
  • Chocolates
  • Cookies
  • Cake
  • Artificially flavoured juice
  • Ice cream
  • High-sugar cereal
  • Crackers

Once in a while, parents can’t help but indulge their kids or reward them with these treats. While that’s perfectly normal, just make sure to keep an eye out for how much sugar they consume. It’s also important to make sure that they drink lots of water to cleanse the mouth, followed by thorough brushing and flossing to prevent sugar and acid from settling on the surface of the teeth and causing plaque buildup.

How Children’s Dentists Treat Decay

The moment your child’s dentist suspects cavities and tooth decay, they will conduct a dental exam and take x-rays to confirm the symptoms. Then, they will proceed with removing the decayed portion of the tooth and placing fillings to arrest the damage and protect the remaining healthy part of the tooth. They usually opt for tooth-coloured fillings to preserve the natural appearance; plus, this also restores your child’s bright and confident smile.

Pediatric dentists work especially hard to make this entire process comfortable for kids. The treatment area is numbed and kids are often prescribed pain medication to avoid feeling any pain or discomfort. In some cases, children can even be given a mild dental sedative to relieve their discomfort and ensure that the treatment proceeds smoothly.

Visit a Children’s Dentist

Still, the best way to maintain good oral health in kids is to take them to see a children’s dentist on a regular basis. Coupled with excellent oral hygiene at home, seeing their dentist regularly reduces the likelihood of cavities and painful toothaches. The routine cleanings and checkups also allow dentists to monitor the growth of their primary teeth until their permanent ones grow in, detect any issues, and ensure optimal growth throughout their formative years.

To learn more about dental decay and how to help your kids avoid it, call Treehouse Dental Care at 1-833-333-6623 or contact us here.

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