No parent wants to get the news that their young child has a cavity. But like it or not, it can happen. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, roughly 40% of children between two and eleven have had at least one cavity in their baby teeth.
It may be easy to dismiss, but parents take note: cavities in baby teeth can spread to adult teeth - having a lasting effect on a child’s oral health well into adulthood. The good news - cavities are preventable! Here is everything you need to know about preventing and treating cavities in your child’s baby teeth.
Why Cavities in Baby Teeth are a Big deal
What’s the big deal about cavities in baby teeth? They just fall out anyway, right? Actually, leaving cavities untreated in baby teeth causes both short and long-term problems for your child. The sooner you treat a cavity, the less chance of trouble down the road.
Cavities in baby teeth are a concern because:
- Healthy baby teeth help children chew, smile and speak
- Baby teeth hold space for adult teeth
- Cavities in baby teeth can spread to adult teeth
- Losing a baby tooth early because of cavities often causes permanent teeth to grow in crooked
- Children with cavities may experience pain, difficulty concentrating and difficulty sleeping
Signs of a Cavity in Your Child’s Baby Teeth
Unfortunately, a cavity in your child’s baby teeth is hard to spot. This is one reason regular visits to the dentist, beginning in baby’s first year, are so important. A dentist’s exam can spot a small cavity before it becomes a more serious problem.
That being said, if you notice white, brown or black spots on your child’s baby teeth, this is often a sign of a cavity. Cavities usually appear along the gumline, on the back side of a child’s upper front baby teeth, or on the chewing surface of molars. Also, if your child complains of tooth pain, pain when brushing, or increased sensitivity to hot or cold foods, this is a sign for concern and a reason to call the dentist.
Preventing Cavities in Baby Teeth
Preventing cavities in baby teeth actually starts before your child is born. You can pass cavity-causing germs to your baby through saliva by: sharing utensils putting baby’s pacifier in your mouth kissing. Be sure to visit the dentist while you are pregnant to ensure your mouth is healthy before your baby is born. Children are born with a full set of baby teeth below the gumline, so cavity prevention begins on day one (or, at least, after the fog lifts on the first few weeks of parenthood).
These healthy habits help prevent cavities in baby teeth
Brushing and flossing
- Before teeth form: wipe your baby’s gums with a damp cloth daily
- After teeth form: brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste – use a rice sized amount until age three, and a pea size after that
- Floss daily once teeth touch
- Avoid sticky and starchy foods
- Avoid juice, sports drinks and other sugary beverages
- Serve milk only at mealtimes
- Water, especially water with fluoride, is always best for thirst
- Don’t put babies to bed with a bottle
- Be careful with snacking - snacking constantly can causes cavities
Visiting the dentist
- Visit the dentist regularly, beginning before your child’s first birthday
- Ask your dentist about fluoride treatments and sealants for preventing cavities
Preventing Cavities in Baby Teeth
Home care is important, but regular visits to the dentist are the best way to monitor your child’s oral health and can help prevent cavities in his or her baby teeth. Visiting the dentist early and often is also cost effective, especially when compared to the price of a filling.
Most Delta Dental plans cover preventive services like fluoride, sealants and oral exams at 100%, so there really is no reason to put off that next trip to the dentist (other than busy schedules and squirming children, of course).