As a parent, you probably understand the importance of your child's physical and emotional health. You may prepare your child well-balanced meals, ensure they play and exercise regularly, and help them receive a good education, but focusing on your child's oral health is also important. Unfortunately, many parents believe placing too much emphasis on a toddler's teeth is not necessary, since they will eventually fall out, but this can lead to a misaligned eruption of permanent teeth and even dangerous infections. Considering that tooth decay is one of the most common chronic issues in children, understanding and preventing this dental disorder is imperative. This guide will help you understand and prevent tooth decay in your toddler-aged child.
The 411 on Tooth Decay in Toddlers
Over time, food particles and bacteria will build up on the teeth and gums. This buildup interacts with the healthy bacteria in the mouth, forming acids that erode tooth enamel. Without a strong, healthy layer of enamel, more food and bacteria will seep into the teeth, causing cavities to form, which are basically a form of tooth decay.
One of the most important things parents need to know is that children with tooth decay may not always feel pain and discomfort, so you need to know the signs. If you are noticing the following, your toddler most likely has cavities that require professional dental care:
- White spots – White spots and white lines are early warning signs that the enamel is beginning to erode.
- Light brown spots – Brown spots on the teeth signify the decay has formed a cavity.
- Dark brown or black spots – If your child has developed darker brown or black spots on their teeth, the cavity has become more severe.
Also, if your child is suffering with tooth sensitivity when consuming hot or cold foods and beverages, they may have a form of tooth decay.
Again, proper diagnosis and treatment is important even in your toddler's teeth that are not permanent. Your child's dentist will recommend filling the cavity, restoring their smile to a more appealing state while protecting their teeth from more serious decay and tooth loss.
Preventing Tooth Decay
Prevention is your best option if you want to protect your toddler from decay, pain, and tooth loss. You may already understand how important it is to brush and floss your teeth to protect your oral health, but this same care is also necessary for your toddler.
As a matter of fact, most dentists recommend that you start brushing your child's teeth as soon as their first tooth erupts. Therefore, you should be brushing your toddler's teeth twice a day and flossing once per day. Brushing in the morning or after breakfast will start a good routine, but make sure to help your toddler brush their teeth right before bed, as well.
You should schedule regular checkups with your toddler's dentist, too. These checkups include a more involved cleaning of the teeth, which removes food and plaque from the teeth and gums. Also, the checkups will help your dentist determine if your child's teeth are developing in the best manner possible.
Finally, pay attention to your child's diet to reduce their risk of developing tooth decay. Avoid giving your toddler an excessive amount of fruit juice. While made from fruit, these juices contain sugars that are acidic, which can cause tooth decay.
If your toddler does enjoy juice occasionally, consider diluting it with with water. Never allow them to fall asleep while sipping on juice in a cup or bottle because the sugars and acids will spread across their teeth and gums while they are sleeping.
Tooth decay may not be life-threatening, but it can threaten your child's oral health. This guide and your dentist will help you understand and protect your toddler from tooth decay. Contact a kids' dentistry office to learn more.