5 Facts You Need to Know About Childhood Tooth Decay

Affects of childhood tooth decay

Childhood Tooth Decay Is a Disease

As parents, there are so many things we need to keep in mind when it comes to our child’s overall health. It’s no different when it comes to oral health. We often wonder if we’re doing all the right things to prevent childhood tooth decay. After all, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of children aged six to eight have had a cavity in at least one of their baby (primary) teeth. To make it a little easier for parents to decipher what they need to know, we’ve created a straightforward list of five facts parents should know about childhood tooth decay.

What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay is a prevailing chronic illness affecting children in the United States, and it is more common than asthma, diabetes, etc. When left untreated, cavities cause pain, sleepless nights, and oral infections that can impact a child’s ability to eat, speak, play, and learn effectively. In fact, the CDC indicates that kids with poor oral health are more likely to miss school and get lower grades than those with good oral health.

Often, understanding the basic facts about childhood tooth decay can be the difference between the likelihood your child will develop cavities or not. And being armed with the facts can also help parents know what to do when they discover that their child has a cavity. Here’s what the Omaha Pediatric Dental Specialists team thinks you need to know.

1. Baby teeth are not the same as adult teeth.

The structure of baby teeth is different from that of adult (permanent) teeth. Baby tooth enamel is thinner than the enamel of permanent teeth, which means that baby teeth are more susceptible to tooth decay. Quite simply, tooth decay can affect kids of any age, even babies. So be sure to start caring for those pearly whites when your child is a newborn, even before their teeth appear. Early on, when your baby is very young, wipe their gums using a damp, clean washcloth at least once a day. And schedule your child’s first dental appointment when that first tooth appears, or around their first birthday, whichever occurs first.

2. The foods our kids eat impacts their oral health too.

As parents, sometimes we focus solely on what foods and beverages impact our child’s overall health. But it is essential to consider the impact various foods can have on our kids’ mouths. Some foods are more likely to cause decay than others, such as sour candies, carbonated drinks, and carb-loaded snacks like Goldfish and animal crackers. We recommend sticking to toothsome (tooth-friendly) tasty options whenever possible.

3. Kids need supervision and assistance with their at-home oral care routine.

We appreciate when parents take the time to teach their kids about brushing, flossing, and rinsing with a child-friendly mouthwash. But just because your child knows what to do regarding their at-home oral care routine, or has heard the instructions, doesn’t mean that they can execute the job as well as we think they can. For instance, kids aren’t as good as adults at cleaning particles off their teeth with their tongues. And, kids need supervision and help with brushing and flossing.

When it comes to brushing, your child will likely be able to brush their teeth around age three. But, parents need to supervise and check for proper cleaning until about age eight. And when it comes to flossing, parents can anticipate that they will be flossing their kid’s teeth until their child is between seven and nine years old. The truth is that not all kids will be ready to floss independently at the same time. Parents should look for signs that their child is ready to floss on their own. Pay attention to their manual dexterity and attention span. Also, look for queues from your child that they are ready to try it for themselves.

4. Preventive dentistry is one of the best ways to prevent childhood tooth decay.

Though your at-home oral care routine, which includes brushing twice a day, flossing once a day before bed, and rinsing after flossing with a child-friendly mouthwash, is critical in preventing childhood tooth decay, so too are those regular trips to the dentist. Like we said before, schedule your child’s first dental appointment as soon as that first tooth pops through the gums or around the time of their first birthday, whichever occurs first. Then, schedule appointments every six months after that.

We also recommend bringing your child in for an early orthodontic evaluation around age seven. Though most kids don’t need braces until around age twelve, getting in early allows your dentist to prepare for issues that might creep up along the way. And, if your child has crooked or misaligned teeth, orthodontic treatment will straighten their teeth, making your child less prone to childhood tooth decay.

5. The health of primary teeth is just as important as the health of adult teeth.

We can’t stress the importance of this enough—your child’s baby teeth are just as important now as their adult teeth will be later. A baby’s teeth don’t just make them look cute. Baby teeth help your child chew and smile, and they are critical for speech development. Those little teeth also serve as placeholders until the permanent teeth grow in. When a child loses a baby tooth early due to childhood tooth decay or dental trauma, permanent teeth can shift into that empty space, causing crowding and other challenges for other future teeth. Starting your child off early with good oral habits at home and regular trips to the dentist can help protect their teeth for years to come.

Omaha Pediatric Dental Specialists makes it easy to prevent childhood tooth decay.

With four convenient locations in Omaha, Grand Island, Hastings, and North Platte, Omaha Pediatric Dental Specialists makes it easy for parents to get their kids to the dentist. So if your child is due for a dental cleaning, or you are worried about childhood tooth decay, now is the time to request an appointment with your pediatric dentist. We’ll follow-up with you directly to confirm your child’s appointment time. We can’t wait to meet you.