Most parents know how important regular doctor’s appointments are, but it might surprise you to know how many parents forget about dentist visits!
Annual dental visits are as important for children as they are for adults, especially because tooth decay – also known as dental caries – is very common in children. Tooth decay occurs when bacteria turn sugars from foods and drinks into acid, which then breaks down tooth enamel (the hard part of the teeth) and causes cavities. Not fun for your little one.
Signs of Early Tooth Decay
Dental caries can occur as soon as the first tooth appears, so it’s important to monitor your child for signs of tooth decay.
The first stage of dental carries is white spots on the gumline or white bands at the base of the tooth where it connects to the gums. These can be easy to miss!
As tooth decay continues, you may see an early cavity appear. These will be light brown spots but may darken to deep brown or black if the cavity is left untreated. At this point, tooth decay is almost always a serious issue that will require heavy treatment.
Other signs of tooth decay that children may experience are:
– Red, swollen gums
– Sensitivity to temperature or sweetness
– Pain in the area around the cavity
It’s important to note that not every child will experience these symptoms; if you have any questions or worries, be sure to contact your child’s dentist.
When to Visit the Dentist for Dental Caries
The sooner you identify tooth decay, the easier it will be to fix. Early stages of dental caries can often be reversed by a dentist, while tooth decay that is in its final stages will need more arduous treatments.
If you have identified tooth decay, or if your child is exhibiting any of the symptoms related to tooth decay, schedule an appointment immediately.
How to Prevent Tooth Decay
Fortunately for you and your child, there are many things you can do to prevent tooth decay. Here are our top seven tips:
1. Model good behaviour. Kids are natural imitators, so give them something to copy. Parents should model good habits such as daily brushing and healthy meal choices.
2. Start early. Begin creating good oral health habits from day one. Wash your baby’s gums with a clean, damp baby washcloth until their first tooth comes in. When that happens, switch to a baby toothbrush and gently brush their teeth with a small smear of baby fluoride toothpaste.
3. Offer juice and milk only at mealtimes. Don’t let your child drink sugary drinks for long periods of time, such as on car trips or in between meals. If your child is thirsty, give them water.
4. Don’t use a bottle or sippy cup as a sleep aid or dummy. Your child should never go to bed with a bottle, as this is a risk not only to their teeth but to their safety as well. Additionally, try not to replace your child’s dummy with a bottle – find other ways to help them self-soothe.
5. Don’t share utensils. The bacteria from your mouth is one cause of dental caries in your child’s mouth. Don’t share your utensils or cups with your baby.
6. Schedule regular dental appointments. Schedule your child’s first dental appointment by the time they turn a year old, or whenever their first tooth comes in. They should have routine cleanings and exams at least once a year.
7. Offer a well-balanced diet. Offer your child healthy, whole foods and limit sugary or sticky foods. You may also want to limit snacking in between meals to allow your child’s teeth to repair themselves.
Healthy Smile, Healthy Child
Baby teeth aren’t permanent but they’re still vital to your child’s health. Not only do your baby’s teeth help them eat, but they also help them learn to talk and make sure that their adult teeth are properly positioned. That means dental checkups are incredibly important!
Help your child avoid tooth decay by following our handy tips and be sure to talk to your dentist if you have any questions or concerns about your little one’s oral health.