I work in the dental field as a dental assistant and I’m always surprised how many parents don’t realize how important it is to take care of your child’s baby teeth. Teeth in general are just as important as your other body parts. You want to take daily care of them just as you would your your liver or your heart.
Baby teeth also know as primary teeth matter and they can become rotten just like adult teeth if you don’t take care of them. In fact, a small cavity in a baby tooth is more likely to spread faster because the tooth is smaller and the enamel is thinner.
Don’t neglect baby teeth
So often I see moms want their kids to have perfect white teeth, but yet they aren’t to much concerned with their kids oral health or willing to assist their child in brushing and flossing their teeth-especially if they get some resistance. They seem to be under the impression that because they are baby teeth and they’ll get a second set of teeth(permanent teeth), their child’s baby teeth aren’t as important. In fact, baby teeth are very important and poor oral hygiene can cause your child to suffer in the future if they get tooth decay.
Baby’s can’t communicate what they are experiencing in terms of pain. So look for symptoms such as fussiness, crying, swelling, or lack of appetite due to chewing causing more pain. Those are typical indications that something in their mouth may be bothering them. White spots and noticeable black holes are also a symptoms of cavities. Even if your unsure take your child to the dentist immediately.
What is a cavity?
Cavities are made by germs in your mouth. When you eat or drink, the bacteria creates acid that breaks down the hard outer layer of your tooth, called enamel. It begins to create hole in your tooth that forms tooth decay. You can get it on any tooth and can be prevented with good oral health.
I hate to scare you but cavities can kill you if you wait to long to get them treated. They can infect other parts of the body. If a cavity gets to the pulp of your tooth it may infect the nerve of your tooth and an abscess can form. It’s like a sac filled pimple that appears on your gums. Abscesses can become very serious if not treated right away.
Baby Teeth matter
What most people don’t know is that if you loose baby teeth early due to advanced decay it will affect the alignment of your adult teeth. Causing them to be crooked or crowded. Also, let me add that when kids get a lot of cavities and need lots of dental treatment it can be traumatic.
Realistically, most kids will get cavities in their lifetime but the goal is to prevent them from getting cavities because getting cooperation in the dental chair because of their young age is difficult. Some dental offices, in order, to give patients a more comfortable experience offer Nitrous Oxide. It’s commonly known as laughing gas and is used during dental treatment to aid in relaxing/calming a patient.
Kids under 5 are less likely to cooperate for dental treatment
As dental providers attempt to treat your child’s cavities it’s important that they get some level of cooperation and no movement because the instruments they use are sharp and the material they use can be dangerous if swallowed. Safety is number one priority in the dental chair. Some offices will tie and strap your kid down using a papoose. It’s not ideal but it gets the job done.
There’s also another option called oral conscious sedation, if your kid is healthy and a good candidate. It’s where kids drink a medicated concoction that relaxes them and usually gets kids comfortable to be more cooperative while getting dental treatment done. In some cases it helps and in others it doesn’t. It just depends on the child.
If none of the above work. Then, general anesthesia is recommended. I see so many young children under 5 having to get put to sleep for dental treatment all because they have rampant decay from neglect or baby bottle decay. It lets me know there is a problem at hand and parents need to be more educated so the gap between parents, doctors and children is closed. It takes a team effort to pass down the importance of oral health to children, which is a big reason why I felt it was important to write this blog post. To give you moms with no dental background a little incite.
Tips for a healthy smile
Now, imagine if your child didn’t even need to sit in the dental chair for anything other than a cleaning every 6 months instead of fillings. You wouldn’t have to worry about toothaches, swelling, abscesses, fillings or baby root canals and all the crying that comes with it from kids who don’t understand what’s going on and are scared.
I can’t help but blame parents. Part of the problem with cavities can be caused due to genetics, but most often it’s because of the parents. Kids don’t have money. They are not the ones buying soda and candy, it’s their parents. If they don’t buy it how would they get ahold of it? Exactly. They only have access to it because it’s allowed in the home. And it’s a parents responsibility to not buy it at all. To teach their children the importance of oral hygiene and limit sugary beverages, carbohydrates and constant grazing.
More parents need to take accountability and stop buying junk food, and be more responsible in making sure their kids are brushing and flossing daily. Yes, baby teeth eventually fall out but while they are in the mouth it is important to take care of them for practice and brush all of them…not some of them or even your favorite’s but ALL of them! You can’t reverse tooth decay but you can do your part in preventing them.
How can you prevent cavities?
As soon as baby teeth appear brush them right away. It’s important to get in the habit of cleaning your baby’s teeth every day because good oral health contributes to a healthy smile, teeth and gums. Cavities are no fun, in fact they are painful. Here’s some information to help you better understand how if you don’t take care of your child’s baby teeth how your child will not only suffer but by them also getting cavities your risking affecting their developing adult teeth.
Cavities cause problems eating, talking, sleeping and even learning in school. This past week was Halloween and your kids probably got bags full of candy. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying candy as long as you make sure you brush and floss right after consuming to prevent getting cavities and avoid pain or sickness.
Rule of thumb is kids should only eat candy on special occasions; holidays, birthdays and celebrations. Kids should not eat candy everyday. To much of anything isn’t good for anybody even if it’s considered healthy.
What you need to know about oral health:
Until your child can tie his own shoe you should be helping your child brush their teeth at least twice a day and floss at least one time day, preferably before bedtime. It’s recommended that kids start going to the dentist as soon as their teeth start coming in or by age 1 and then going at least twice a year moving forward.
For baby’s you can use a soft wash cloth to wipe their gums after each feeding. Once your child moves up to solid foods avoid sugary or sticky foods because they are more likely to cause cavities. It also important to limit between meal time snacking, as well as sugary drinks to only mealtime because you usually brush your teeth right after each meal.
Just think every time your child drinks juice, milk or eats a snack they are basically coating their teeth with sugar because everything essentially breaks down into sugar. Encourage them to drink water as much as possible (fluoridated water is the best) so they aren’t constantly soaking their teeth in sugar which will lead to getting cavities.
A healthy diet that limits sugary beverages and snacks is good for overall well-being as well as healthy teeth. Avoid giving your kids snacks like soda, chips, cookies, crackers and candy. All of these can increase your child’s risk of tooth decay and cavities.
As soon you start to see teeth begin brushing their teeth with a age appropriate toothbrush and fluoride tooth paste. All you need is a pea sized amount of toothpaste anything more than that is way to much. Make sure when brushing you’re brushing all the sides of their teeth (there are 4 surfaces of a tooth-the front, the back, the chewing surface and the sides), even their tongue because that’s how you prevent cavities.
The toothbrush has easy access to three sides of your teeth but the bristles are to big to get in the in between and remove plaque. That’s why it’s extremely important that once you see your kids teeth touching you begin to use floss. Not removing plaque and bacteria from teeth within 24 hours puts teeth at risk for getting cavities.
Going to visit a dentist will teach your how to brush and floss your child’s teeth properly. Plus, it is a California law now that requires kindergartners to have a dental check-up.
How are cavities treated?
Depending on how deep the decay in your tooth is and how wide it is depends on what will be done to treat it. Cavities require some type of filling. Two most common materials used to fill cavities are Amalgam (metal fillings that are silver-colored) and composite (white fillings which are tooth colored.)
Your dentist will let you know which type is best for their particular tooth. Each tooth is unique and may require one over the other but your doctor should let you know why. Once a material is chosen the dentist will fill the hole with it to restore and protect the tooth from getting more damage.
Good dental health starts with baby teeth for more information about taking care of your mouth and teeth, visit The ADA’s website just for patients.