How Tooth Decay Can Affect Your Child’s Health
Implement a solid oral hygiene routine for your child.
As parents, we do everything we can to make sure our children eat healthy foods. Avoiding sugary cereals, cookies, candies, and fried foods are par for the course for parents who want what is best for their child. A poor diet can reap a host of bad outcomes with children. Specifically, a poor diet can increase behavioral issues, impact sleep, and lead to obesity if not caught and corrected early. A poor diet can also lead to tooth decay.
Tooth decay occurs when germs within the mouth create plaque on the surface of the tooth. These germs love the sugars that are highly prevalent in certain foods and beverages. With the continued consumption of these items, the plaque starts to eat away at the tooth’s surface. When this happens, we all know the outcome: the dreaded cavity.
Tooth decay causes discomfort and infection and, in extreme cases, can affect your youngster’s growth. Many parents don’t understand that even decay in your child’s baby teeth can lead to other health concerns.
Poor oral hygiene can have serious ramifications on your child’s health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, left untreated, cavities can lead to various childhood challenges. From speech delays, eating disorders, and learning challenges, children with poor oral hygiene practices and a high number of cavities often miss more school time than kids that have good dental habits.
Further, the entire process of correcting a cavity can have negative implications on a child. Think about it: what adult would ever tell you they enjoy having a cavity filled? Seriously, getting a filling is not a pleasant experience. We may be pediatric dentists, but we won’t take it personally when you can list hundreds of things you would rather do. Imagine what this experience is like for a child who is still impressionable and forming their opinions about various life experiences.
Children who have cavities early in life often create negative perceptions about their dentists, leading to poor habits down the road. Those with dental problems when they are young are ironically far less likely to seek dental care when they are older.
To be clear, teeth damaged by cavities can lead to the following issues:
- Keeps children from eating healthy foods
- Results in overbites or bite alignment issues
- Prevents adult teeth from coming in straight and healthy
- Hinders speech development
- Negatively impacts self-esteem
- Creates tooth pain that can progress with delayed treatment
- Leads to infections of other teeth, thus causing additional cavities
Though your child’s baby teeth are temporary, this doesn’t mean they don’t need to be adequately cared for. Failure to care for your baby teeth can create long-term negative ramifications.
Symptoms of Cavities in Baby Teeth
Tooth decay is a very common childhood disease and is believed to affect one in seven 3- to 5-year-olds. Parents should watch for the following symptoms:
- Your child expresses signs of pain when chewing their food or brushing their teeth.
- You see signs of discomfort or redness around the gum line or near the tooth.
- Your child shows increased sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures.
- You can see holes, discoloration, or dark spots on your child’s tooth.
- Your child has bad breath that doesn’t go away after you brush their teeth.
Preventing tooth decay in your child’s teeth involves more than just brushing and flossing.
Helping your child take care of their teeth is a daily exercise that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Though brushing and flossing after meals are two of the best things you can do, it isn’t always possible to do so, especially for young kids. If this is the case for you and your child, there are other strategies you can implement to promote healthy teeth.
One of the best things you can do is see your dentist regularly. This isn’t intended to be a shameless plug for Pediatric Dentist Specialists; one of the best ways to ensure good oral health is to get regular cleanings. Your dentist will assess your child’s oral health and will be able to identify early warning signs. Though we like to see our patient’s smiling faces, dentists also like to see children regularly so kids can start to make the connection between regular dental office visits and healthy teeth.
Another strategy parents can take to keep their child’s mouth healthy is to serve them foods that promote remineralization. This is the process your body employs to resist cavities. These foods include rhubarb, spinach, kale, white beans, pinto beans, red beans, and broccoli.
The Mouth-Body Connection
It’s easy to forget the critical connection between the health of your body and the health of your mouth. After all, we go to the doctor for our bodies and the dentist for our mouths. But the last time we all checked, our mouths were a part of our bodies. Suffice it to say, there must be some connection. After all, doesn’t what we put in our mouths also affect the rest of our bodies! The answer is YES!
Today’s dentists, even pediatric dentists, conduct screenings for systemic illnesses that can involve other organs in the body. This is why dentists look at your tongue, check for lumps along your neck and throat, and ask you questions about your overall health. Over 90% of systemic illnesses show oral symptoms. Therefore, when parents bring their child in for a dental visit, they shouldn’t be surprised when we ask questions about more than just their child’s teeth.
When parents, children, and dentists work together, they can do a much better job of creating a pleasant dental care experience. A healthy mouth can help lead to overall healthier children and positive lifelong habits of proper medical and dental care.