Tooth decay can begin at any age and children are particularly susceptible. Almost half of children aged 2 - 11 years have had decayed baby teeth, while 32% of kids between ages 9 – 11 years have had decay in their permanent teeth. Baby formula with added sugar and heavily-sugared fruit juices that young children are given are major contributing factors these numbers. Even a mother’s milk can cause cavities in baby teeth because it’s slightly sweet.
Care for baby teeth should begin as soon as the first tooth breaks through. Dr. Howey, like all dentists, recommends that you bring your child in for an exam no later than his or her first birthday. And regular six-month check-ups after that are suggested, as with adults. Dr. Howey can give you advice and tips for keeping your child’s teeth decay free and healthy.
There are also are things you as a parent can do to prevent your child from falling victim to early tooth decay before the first dental visit:
- Your baby’s teeth should always be flushed with water or wiped down with a damp cloth after feeding, especially before they fall asleep. Allowing the milk or formula residue to sit on the gums can promote decay on the teeth breaking through. If the decay is left untreated it can eventually lead to infection and pain for your child.
- Try to wean your child off breast feeding or bottled milk by one year old. This will help avoid decay, and will lessen the chance that teeth will grow in crooked due to sucking.
- Begin brushing as soon as the first tooth breaks skin. Even a small surface can develop decay. At first, begin brushing with a soft bristled brush and water. Ask your dentist when it’s ok to begin using a small amount of tooth paste.
- Once your child is old enough to begin brushing on his or her own, continue to monitor their brushing, going back to clean any areas they may have missed.
- Don’t give bottles of sugary drinks or milk before bedtime
- Use a straw with sugary drinks. This allows teeth to have less contact with the liquid.
- Try to limit the overall sugary foods your child eats and drinks.