Early childhood tooth decay (ECTD) is a serious, infectious and transmissible disease that can spread fast if prevention or treatment is not sought after quickly. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 50% of children have cavities by the second grade.
What Causes Early Childhood Tooth Decay
The most common cause of ECTD is consuming a fair amount of sugary foods or drinks, especially when going to bed. Aside from being hyperactive, if you typically give your toddlers juice, sweetened milk or other sugary foods before bed, they are at risk of developing ECTD. The condition is usually very painful and can be expensive to treat.
How to Prevent Baby Cavities
You can easily prevent childhood cavities by following simple dental and oral hygiene tips. Below are some tips that will protect your child from ECTD:
i) Avoid putting sweetened drinks in the baby’s bottle.
Use breast milk, water or formula in your baby’s bottle. Do not put soda, juice or other sweetened drinks in the bottle or the threat of ECTD is amplified. Moreover, do not put your toddler to bed with a bottle that contains a sweetened drink. Avoid giving your baby juice until after 12 months. Even after this point in time, limit your child’s consumption of sweetened drinks during snack and meal times.
ii) Do not clean the pacifier with your mouth.
If your baby uses a pacifier, do not put any sweetened liquid in it, such as honey, chocolate syrup, or flavoring syrup. Most importantly, never put the pacifier in your mouth! Doing so can pass germs that will cause the toddler to develop cavities. If the pacifier falls down or becomes soiled, clean it with hot soap and water and always remember to rinse it well before returning it to the toddler’s mouth.
iii) Provide healthy snacks.
Make sure the snacks you give your children are healthy (no excuses!). Most healthy snacks you can give your child will include certain vegetables, cheeses, fruits, yogurt, peanut butter and meat. Limit the amount of sugary snacks that you give your baby.
iv) Clean the baby’s gums.
Before baby teeth appear, clean the baby’s gums by wiping them gently with a soft cloth. Make sure no food residue remains in the baby’s mouth. Wipe the gums at least twice a day, especially after feeding and before taking the toddler to bed.
v) Brush baby teeth twice daily.
When baby teeth have started to appear, brush them twice a day with a soft, small toothbrush. Use fluoridated toothpaste for the healthiest results. For children aged between 2 and 5 years, use a pea-sized amount on the toothbrush and help them to brush. The earlier you enforce the habit of brushing, the better the child will remember to do so.
The Importance of a Healthy Diet
The foods you give your children will determine whether they will develop tooth decay. It is important to provide a balanced diet for the healthy development of the gums and teeth. If your child’s diet lacks certain nutrients, the teeth may not be able to resist cavities. Studies have shown that dental cavities spread faster among people who have diets that lack sufficient nutrients.
For toddlers and young children, avoid giving them foods that contain sugars. Examples of such foods include vegetables, cereals, bread, milks, and fruits. However, this does not mean that you should entirely avoid the foods. The important thing to consider is the awareness of what you give your children to eat and when they eat.
To get a balanced diet, you should take foods from each and every one of the following food groups:
- Milk, cheese and yoghurt
- Meat, poultry and fish
- Fruits and vegetables
- Bread, cereals and other grain foods
Monitor the snacks you give your children. Every time a child consumes a sugary food, acids attack the teeth for about 20 minutes, increasing the risk of tooth decay.
Erica Hill works with David Evans, DDS out of Boulder, CO. She enjoys writing about oral hygiene and childhood hygiene awareness.