8 Ways to Help Your Child Prevent Cavities
Keeping Your Kid’s Teeth Healthy
You can empower your child to keep up with their oral health at every age by learning how to help them prevent cavities (also known as dental caries). Cavities are holes that develop in tooth enamel and are often a result of plaque, a sticky bacterial film that clings to the surface of teeth as it “digests” sugars and starches from what you’ve had to eat or drink.
The bacteria in plaque produces acids, which can eat away at the protective outer layer of the tooth (called enamel). Since tooth enamel does not regrow once it has decayed, taking steps to prevent cavities from forming in the first place is a daily effort worth making.
That being said, if your child has already experienced a cavity, it’s okay! Sometimes even the best of efforts can result in unexpected tooth decay. Or perhaps you didn’t yet know all of the steps to take to keep cavities at bay. Be gentle on yourself, and know that you can still help your child prevent future cavities and experience great oral health.
Here are 8 ways to help your child prevent cavities and enjoy the benefits of a healthy smile, starting today.
1. Create a fun oral hygiene ritual.
Experts agree that a lifetime of great oral health is most supported by a consistent oral hygiene routine, which is the most effective when started early. While adult reasoning is able to quickly nod in agreement, the importance of regular brushing and flossing may not yet resonate with your child’s understanding of what’s important.
Though you may butt up against some resistance from time to time, you can help steer your child toward a consistent oral hygiene routine by creating a fun ritual of brushing and flossing. You can play one of your child’s favorite songs when it’s time to brush or even invent your own sing-along. Younger children might enjoy holding a favorite toy while you brush and floss their teeth, while older children may like to set a special timer that’s just for them while brushing.
Last but not least, you can make your oral hygiene ritual a family affair whenever possible. The more who brush and floss at once, the merrier! (And the more you and your family can prevent cavities.)
2. Visit your child’s pediatric dentist twice annually.
Like twice-daily brushing and flossing, visiting your child’s pediatric dentist every six months is one of the best habits to develop when it comes to preventing cavities.
Pediatric dentists are highly specialized at working with children as young as eight months and as old as 18 while creating a welcoming, age-appropriate environment and approach that best supports young dental needs. In addition to keeping young teeth clean, your child’s pediatric dentist also provides effective preventive dental treatments for kids.
3. Ask about fluoride treatments.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps prevent cavities by strengthening tooth enamel and making teeth more resistant to decay and acid damage. A professional fluoride treatment is a concentrated dose of this tooth-supporting mineral that’s topically applied to your child’s teeth for maximum benefits. Depending on your child’s age and cavity risk, your child’s pediatric dentist may recommend a fluoride varnish or rinse two to four times a year.
4. Request dental sealants.
The chewing surfaces of the back teeth (molars and premolars) are textured and grooved. This creates many nooks and crannies in which food particles and bacteria can hide, making molars and premolars especially susceptible to tooth decay.
Sealants are a thin protective coating that’s painted onto the chewing surface of your child’s back teeth to help reduce the risk of tooth decay for up to 10 years.
5. Address tooth grinding and clenching.
Grinding or clenching teeth (known as bruxism) can challenge your child’s oral health and comfort in many ways. Though they’re still developing, your child’s jaws are capable of producing the powerful force needed for chewing. When that force is continually applied to your child’s teeth when they’re not eating, their teeth may become cracked, weak, or damaged. Alongside the potential side effects of jaw pain and headaches, damage from bruxism can increase your child’s risk of cavities.
Fortunately, bruxism can often be effectively treated with a simple dental intervention: a custom mouth guard or night guard. If you’re concerned your child may be experiencing bruxism, your pediatric dentist can evaluate your child’s overall oral health and create a customized dental appliance to help protect their teeth.
6. Serve more water.
Water is an oral health ally at every age. Drinking unflavored water from a bottle or tap helps your child’s mouth keep cavities at bay by promoting saliva production and washing away leftover sugars, acids, and starches from the surfaces of their teeth. As an added bonus, good hydration also supports your child’s overall physical and cognitive well-being.
7. Limit certain treats and drinks.
Certain treats and drinks, such as candy, cookies, cakes, chips, sodas, juices, and sports drinks, can literally “stick” to your child’s teeth, prolonging their exposure to sugars, starches, and acids. While acid temporarily weakens tooth enamel, sugars and starches feed the acid-producing oral bacteria that cause cavities. You can help your child reduce this risk by limiting certain treats and drinks and having them rinse their mouth with water after eating anything sugary, starchy, sticky, or acidic.
8. Pack tooth-friendly snacks.
Conveniently, tooth-friendly snacks—such as fruit, vegetables, dairy, nuts, and whole grains—are generally the same as those that support your child’s overall health and well-being. Some foods even provide your child’s teeth with extra oral health benefits. While crunchy produce, like apples, carrots, and celery, increases salivation and “brushes” the teeth, cheese, yogurt, and plain nuts are rich in enamel-supporting calcium and phosphorous.
My Pediatric Dental Specialists love supporting your child’s smile through every visit. For personalized recommendations on how to help your child prevent cavities and achieve a healthy smile for life, contact our office to schedule an appointment.