Tooth decay can affect patients of all ages, including babies, toddlers, and young children. Sometimes viewed as an older child and teenage predicament, dental decay doesn’t limit its destruction to a certain demographic. It can be diagnosed in the youngest and oldest of mouths. Painful and damaging in many cases, dental decay in young children and toddlers is traumatic and be the catalyst for unfavourable dental experiences that lead to adult anxiety around dental visits. Preventing dental decay in childhood not only protects developing smiles, but contributes to a level of confidence and ease associated with dental appointments.
A Baby’s Dental Health Starts Early
Brushing and flossing always remains the principle habits in developing good oral hygiene and preventing dental disease. Even if a child doesn’t yet have teeth, there is still a need to keep their mouth free from opportunistic sugar bugs. A baby’s gummy smile is loved by all – including inflammation inducing sugar bugs that target a baby’s smile and vulnerable gum tissue. Wiping a baby’s gums with a soft cloth after feeding is an important step to keep gums healthy and to protect soon to erupt primary teeth. Avoiding putting a baby to sleep with a bottle of milk or juice will prevent ‘baby bottle caries’, a condition where new teeth are destroyed by acid producing sugars in milk and juice. Bringing your child to the dentist for their first check-up by the age of 1, or within 6 months of the first tooth erupting, is recommended so that tooth eruption can be monitored and any signs of decay caught early.
Brushing New Teeth
As soon as new teeth emerge, start to gently brush them with a soft, wet toothbrush and a grain-sized amount of toothpaste. Once a child is around age 2, their teeth need to be brushed twice a day as their expanding diet means more exposure to food groups and sticky treats that get easily stuck to tooth surfaces, as primary molars tend to have deep grooves that create the perfect hiding place for sticky food remnants. Along with brushing twice daily, a growing child’s teeth need to be flossed once neighbouring teeth start touching. Flossing a child’s teeth gives parents an opportunity to closely observe teeth and to check for swollen and irritated gums.
Decay Can Be Easily Prevented
Preventing dental decay forming on a child’s teeth involves some basic steps that include:
- Cleaning a baby’s gums with a soft cloth
- Giving a baby and toddler water at bedtime
- Brushing teeth as soon as they erupt, and begin flossing once teeth start touching
- Limiting sugary treats and sticky food that can get trapped in grooves
As a child gets older, the introduction of dental visits and professional cleanings also help to prevent the onset of dental decay, as soft spots and tacky grooves – which are the early signs of decay – can be caught, monitored, and/or treated before the health of a tooth is compromised.