February is designated as the Children’s Dental Health Month in America, which makes it the ideal time for parents to brush up’ on the crucial role played by oral hygiene in children’s overall wellness and health. While parents and caregivers are often well informed about when to see a pediatrician, the same cannot be said about following dental guidelines. Consequently, this ignorance has led to a significant rise in tooth decay rates in young children spanning the past two decades.
According to experts, by the age of 6, about 50% of young children will have experienced at least one cavity. In fact, ECC (early childhood carries) is now considered the most prevalent childhood disease in the U.S. (even more common than asthma). The good news, however, is that tooth decay is easily preventable but only if a healthy dental routine is commenced as early as possible. Below, we take a look at 3 ways to prevent cavities in children as follows:
Don’t Delay Your Visit to the Dentist
Generally, most children (and adults) require a dental cleaning and checkup after every six months which is why the regulatory bodies charged with overseeing dentistry in America all recommend that a child see a dentist by their first birthday. Early prevention is indeed crucial and this first visit provides the dentist with a chance to guide parents on cavity prevention and healthy dental habits.
Resist From Sharing Utensils
Prior to the emergence of teeth, streptococcus mutans (cavity-causing bacteria) can reside in a baby’s tongue furrows. This is why saliva-sharing behaviors such as using the same spoons or plates; or cleaning a pacifier using your mouth are frowned upon as bacteria can spread from an adult’s mouth to your child’s. It is, therefore, advisable to gently clean your baby’s gums with a soft washcloth or gauze after feedings in order to remove bacteria as well as get him/her accustomed to having fingers, and later on a toothbrush, in his/her mouth.
Be “Snack Smart”
Needless to say, one of the foremost ways of keeping children’s teeth healthy is by limiting the intake of sugary drinks and foods. This is because bacteria consume sugar and produce acidic waste, which in turn erodes the teeth to create cavities. Diet is an important factor in preventing tooth decay so ensure you limit such foods such as sticky candy, Gatorade, soda, and even gummy vitamins which are laden with sugar. Instead, opt for veggies and crunchy fresh fruits like celery, carrots, and apples which are not only better options, but scrape plaque from teeth when eaten.
Poor oral health impacts negatively on a child’s quality of life- it affects among others self-esteem, sleep habits, eating patterns, participation in community or social activities, and interpersonal contacts. So, while cavities in children may be deemed a minor issue, early intervention is paramount if your children are to have a lifetime of good dental health.