Baby teeth require the same care and daily routines as permanent ones. If your child’s baby teeth develop cavities and decay, the same bacteria will attack their adult teeth and put them at a much higher risk of oral health issues later on in life. Unfortunately, toddler tooth decay has been on the rise in recent years, and has now become the most common chronic disease for children. It’s important to find out what signs you should look for, learn more about the causes, and discover how to prevent and treat toddler tooth decay.
Early Signs of Tooth Decay in Toddlers
The best way to check for symptoms of tooth decay in your toddler is to pay attention to their gums. If they start to appear red or swollen, there is a good chance harmful bacteria is trapped in their teeth. Another thing to look out for is any bleeding – if brushing ends with blood in the sink, it may be time for a dentist appointment. In fact, many signs of tooth decay can be very hard to find without the proper equipment, so make sure your toddler is getting checked by a dentist once or twice a year.
What Causes Tooth Decay in Toddlers?
Many things can have an impact on your oral health, but for toddlers there are two main culprits that can lead to tooth decay. The biggest one is extensive consumption of sugary foods and drinks. When your child eats or drinks anything with sugar, the bacteria in the plaque on their teeth will break that sugar down into acids that attack their enamel. As the enamel weakens, holes will begin to form. These are cavities.
If sugar is being consumed slowly over long periods of time, it’s actually more harmful to your toddler’s teeth than eating or drinking it quickly all at once. That’s why sippy cups are the second offender when it comes to causes of tooth decay. If your child is walking around for extended periods of the day with a sippy cup filled with anything but water, sugar is slowly collecting around their teeth, which means those acids have even more time to do damage. It is recommended that children are weaned off of sippy cups and bottles by 12 months, so if your toddler is still toting theirs around, it’s time to stop.
Toddler Tooth Decay Treatment
But what happens when you get the news your toddler has cavities? Don’t worry – there are safe and effective treatments to stop it from spreading. Fillings and crowns are both viable options for children, depending on the severity of the decay. Both novocaine shots and even small amounts of laughing gas are used as numbing agents and will not harm your toddler. Talk to your child’s dentist to discuss the best options.
How to Prevent Tooth Decay in Toddlers
We know the idea of putting your toddler through a dental procedure can be scary for both parent and child. But there are easy and effective steps you can take every day to ensure it’s something they don’t have to face.
Brushing: Just like adult teeth, your child’s teeth should be brushed at least twice a day. Use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on a child-friendly toothbrush. Try the Oral-B 3+ Electric Toothbrush or Oral-B Manual Toothbrush Kids 3-5 Years if you prefer a manual option.
After brushing, have your toddler just spit instead of rinsing so the protective layer of fluoride can do its work. Dentists recommend that an adult brush kids’ teeth through age 7 so they can get a better, more thorough clean.
Limit Sugars: Foods and drinks like sweets, chocolate, biscuits, and dried fruit such as raisins should be avoided. You don’t have to restrict these foods completely, but keep sugary foods as an occasional treat at mealtimes, when the saliva in the mouth is most likely to be able to wash away the sugar and minimize the damage it causes. In between meals, you can give your child low sugar snacks like breadsticks, crackers, cheese, or fresh fruit.
Fluoride: It’s important to make sure your child’s teeth are frequently exposed to fluoride. Find out if your tap water has fluoride in it, or if you should be giving your toddler supplements. When brushing your toddler’s teeth, make sure you are using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste with a minimum of 1100 ppm fluoride, like the dentist-recommended Oral-B’s Kids 3+ Toothpaste. Lastly, make sure your dentist is doing fluoride varnish applications one to two times a year to give your child the best defense for a healthy smile.