Coast Dental Blog
Top 10 Ways to Keep Kids' Teeth Healthy
The number of children with cavities is on the rise. Tooth decay now affects more than one-fourth of American children aged 2-5, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The problem is even worse for older kids. Half of children between the ages of 12 and 15 will have at least once cavity.
Dr. Kent Do, a pediatric dentist with SmileCare, has seen toddlers with such rampant decay, the tooth needs to be pulled. Other children may require a pulpotomy, commonly known as a baby root canal, to save the tooth. Just like with adult teeth, the baby tooth then needs to be topped with a crown.
Sound painful and expensive? It can be. Dr. Do outlines 10 easy and affordable ways to help prevent cavities in your children's teeth:
Start early. Even before your baby has his first tooth, gently rub a soft, web washcloth or gauze over the baby's gums. Not only with this remove any leftover milk or formula, it will also ease the transition into tooth brushing later on.
Avoid putting the child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup. Milk, formula, juice and sugar water can lead to dental decay if the liquid sits on the teeth. This rule is very important later in life, too. Avoid giving your children any snacks or drinks other than water after they have brushed their teeth.
Take your child to the dentist after the first tooth comes in, generally around six months old. The dentist can help you plan preventive care, ensure teeth are erupting normally and answer questions you have about diet and other factors that can impact your child's smile.
Brush your teeth in front of your children. Children mimic what they see, so teach them by example. Show them how to brush every part of the mouth, including the tongue. Reinforce that you move the bristles along each tooth and never chew on the toothbrush head because it can damage the bristles.
Start using a toothbrush once the first molar comes in. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends using a smear of fluoride toothpaste for children under two. Once the child turns two, increase to a pea-sized amount. You can use more toothpaste once the child is able to spit it out, usually about age six.
Make brushing fun! There are so many cool toothbrushes available now, from character-themed brushes to ones that play music. Don't have a musical toothbrush? Sing a silly song, play a video on your smart phone or make up a story about sugar bugs hiding in their mouths. The key is to have your children looking forward to this time of day, instead of treating it as a chore.
Brush for two minutes twice a day. You may want to have younger children sit on your lap facing you while you brush their teeth and don't forget Rule #6!
Floss once a day. As soon as two teeth touch each other, it's time to start flossing. Most cavities are interproximal, meaning the decay is in-between two teeth. A toothbrush can't reach that area; only floss can.
Eliminate gummy candy. Gummies, junk food, soda, even sports drinks are all loaded with sugar that gets stuck on and between the teeth. If you can't eliminate these completely, then try to give them only during the daytime, when the mouth produces more saliva which can help wash away the cavity-causing bacteria.
Get Elmo to help you. Sesame Street™ has more than a dozen videos, songs and games designed to teach children how to brush. Older children may want to check out the website 2min2x.org. Sometimes a child will do something just because someone other than you told them it was the right thing to do!
Just how important is it to prevent cavities in kids? A New York Times story in 2012 discussed the rising number of preschoolers who need surgery to fix their infected teeth. At Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, the average age of patients is 4, and most have decay in six to eight teeth.
"My goal is to educate parents more so we can prevent this epidemic," said Dr. Do. "It's a huge problem."
Pediatric dentist Kent Do, DMD, has been in practice since 2004. He earned his dental degree from Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and completed his residency at New York University. He is a member of the International Association of Paediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Association and several more dentistry organizations. He practices at several SmileCare offices in California including in Carson, Chino, Downey, Montebello, Riverside, Santa Ana and West Covina. To find the location nearest you, call 1-800-32-SMILE or visit Coast Dental.
Written by: Beth Gaddis
Reviewed by: Kent Do, DMD
Reviewed by: Cindy Roark, DMD