Childhood cavities are one of the most common issues dealt with by pediatric dentists.  Binge eating sugary and starchy snacks coupled with inadequate oral hygiene can lead to oral decay/cavities in your child’s teeth.The good news is that cavities can be avoided. Here’s how you can keep cavities away from your child’s teeth.

Avoid Baby Bottle Decay

Putting a baby to sleep with a bottle might be convenient as the bottle gives them great comfort, but it puts your child’s teeth at risk.  Sugar from juice or milk remains on a baby’s teeth for hours as the child sleeps attracting and promoting the growth of bacteria.  Acid is a biproduct when bacteria metabolize sugar.  The acid produced erodes tooth enamel resulting in decay/cavities.  Comfort has more to do with suckling than with the contents of the bottle making water a much better choice if a bottle is necessary.   

Limit Starchy Foods

Munching on potato snacks and starchy crackers can also result in dental cavities. Tiny particles of these foods can get trapped in interdental spaces. Cleaning these areas in a child’s mouth can be difficult. If not remived properly, starch can break down into sugar and feed cavity-causing bacteria. So, limit your child’s consumption of such snacks.

Avoid Sugary Foods

The residues from sugary foods stimulate the growth of cavity-causing bacteria. This bacteria releases harmful acids that lead to decay and cavities. Avoid or limit your child’s exposure to sugary foods and beverages such as chocolates, cakes, candies, sugary drinks, aerated drinks, jellies, etc. Brushing or at least rinsing following sugary treats helps to reduce risk

Include More Dairy in Their Diet

Unsweetened and fat-free dairy products such as milk, cheeses, yogurt, etc. neutralize the acids present in the mouth that cause decay, enamel depletion, and other problems. The calcium in these dairy foods also helps to strengthen tooth structure. Strong tooth structure means the tooth is more resistant to acid attack.  A strong immune system supported by a balanced diet of whole foods plays a major role in good oral health.  

Detect Cavities Early

Cavities when left untreated or ignored, can result in serious and painful dental issues such as sensitivity, toothache, abscesses and even tooth loss etc. Hence, early detection and treatment of decay is crucial. If your child complains of tooth pain, know it is already compromised and needs immediate attention.  A general dentist, experienced with children, can usually treat the condition.  If decay is wide spread and a child is uncoperative, general dentists will refer to a pediatric specialist who, with a medical anesthesiologist, will restore all of the compromised teeth while the child is sedated.  Note that most specialists require payment up front and will have your insurance reimburse you.  Treatments can be very expensive and so prevention is really the best course.  

Create a complete oral hygiene regime for your child which includes brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste and flossing 2 to 3 times daily.  Infants and toddlers do not require toothpaste: fluoride is not recommended if a child is prone to swallowing toothpaste.  Generally speaking, a child does not possess the fine motor skills to adequately brush their own teeth until they can tie their own shoe laces.  Even after a child develops this skill, parental supervision is recommended.  

Lastly, be aware that as soon as a child’s teeth erupt, they can visit the dentist.  The first visit should definitely happen prior to starting school.  If you become aware of malodour, discolouration, misalignment, or obvious pain and avoidance of food make a dental appointment without delay.  Have your child meet the dentist and observe you or an older sibling during a checkup and cleaning rather than a treatment appointment.  There are many age appropriate books and online videos with familiar characters available to prepare young children for their first dental visit.  Avoid communicating your own dental phobias to your child – they are very conscious of your anxiety.