Preventing Childhood Cavities
Too many children are still having their baby teeth extracted because of decay.
In 2017/18, almost 13,000 children under the age of five years old had teeth extracted due to tooth decay. This is an extremely high number for a problem that is almost entirely preventable. It might not always be easy, but as parents, we can do an awful lot of things that can help to minimise any risk of a child of ours suffering in this way.
As well as the long term pain and distress that tooth decay can cause a child, it may also have a negative impact on their development and self confidence, as we will see a little later on. In today’s blog, your local dentists take a look at this unnecessary problem.
Why tooth decay?
Any teeth that are not kept clean are likely to suffer from cavities. This applies whether you are 4 or 104 (if you are lucky enough to have any teeth left at that age!) The key is in avoiding food and drinks that are high risk for your teeth and gums, and making sure that you clean them diligently. As children can’t be expected to clean their teeth well themselves until they reach a certain age, the responsibility falls upon the parents to help them with this.
Watch what they eat and drink
We always presume that children crave sweet things, and there is much evidence for this. That being said, it is also possible that they develop a taste for this because we encourage it, giving them sweet things as a treat, for example. Try to keep these treats down as much as possible and experiment a little to see if your child enjoys other treats that are less harmful for their teeth.
The following are some of the more common ways that parents give their children unnecessary levels of sugar in treats.
- Dipping their dummy/pacifier in sweet liquids
- Putting sweet drinks in their bottle
- Giving them ‘healthy’ treats such as raisins. These are terrible for tiny teeth
- Giving them milk after their night time teeth cleaning
These things are very likely to lead to tooth decay and are easily avoided.
Clean their teeth
There can be a misunderstanding about the role of baby teeth. We might think of these as being less important because they will fall out. There are two key arguments about this approach. Firstly, pain is pain, whether it is your first or adult teeth and we shouldn’t even think about putting our children through that. Secondly, the baby teeth act as ‘placeholders’ for the adult teeth that are developing beneath them. If a child loses their first teeth too soon, it can have consequences for their adult teeth.
The following are a few straightforward ways of helping to make sure their teeth and gums are cleaned well.
- Before any teeth come through, clean their gums with a soft damp cloth
- When they come through, use a very soft toothbrush to clean them
- Only use a tiny amount of toothpaste initially as too much fluoride may be harmful for very young teeth
- Don’t let them eat or drink anything but water after their night time cleaning
- Take them to see a dentist at the Foxhall Dental Practice around the time of their first birthday and maintain regular appointments with us afterwards
Additional problems of early years cavities
We mentioned earlier that it is not just the pain and distress caused by toothache that we should be concerned about. Children of such a young age will require hospitalisation to have a tooth out and will need to miss time from school or pre-school. This may mean that you will also have to take some time from work to be with them.
In addition to any time lost from their early years education, studies have shown that children with poor oral health generally do less well at school. Missing or painful teeth can have an effect on their speech development and they may struggle to make certain sounds because of it. As they become more self aware, they may hold back from participating due to the speech defect and become more withdrawn. This can affect their education development and may also prove a barrier to developing friendships too if it leads to a lack of confidence.
As adults, we may feel that they will soon ‘get over’’ these problems, but issues that affect us early on can stay with us for a very long time, even for the whole of our life. So helping our child to have a healthy mouth can bring great benefits for a long time to come.
If you have a young child who has not had their teeth examined yet, or for some time, please take this opportunity to get things back on track by seeing one of our Ipswich children’s dental team. You can contact the Foxhall Dental Practice by calling us today on 01473 258396.