Via Punch: Simple ways to prevent cavities in children

If proper care is not taken, babies can develop cavities which are a chronic disease ten times more common than asthma in children. Baby teeth can get cavities which will transform into a dental infection. The tooth decay is a serious, infectious and transmittable disease which can spread quickly without proper precautions taken.

A cavity develops when a tooth decays and if left untreated, it can destroy the tooth and kill nerves at the centre. The hole grows bigger and deeper over time and they can also be called dental caries.

People often think that a baby’s teeth don’t need too much attention because, eventually they will all fall out as they grow older. But the truth is our baby’s teeth matter even more as infants because, primarily the teeth are very important to a child’s physical, emotional and social development.

You should note that the teeth aid in speech development, they build self-esteem by providing a beautiful smile, they also enable a child to pay full attention while learning in school without the distraction of dental pain and also, they save space in the jaw that is needed for proper development of permanent teeth.

However, a research shows that early childhood cavities can be prevented using some simple and DIY tips.

But before the simple tips are carried out in preventing cavities in children, mothers especially pregnant women should make sure their own mouths are healthy by getting a professional dental examination. Also, they should practise good daily oral hygiene and care. A study shows that this reduces transmission of cavity germs from mothers to infants.

Image source: Pixabay

Bottle hygiene

The baby’s bottle gives toddlers a great comfort but when you misuse them, it can cause tooth decays and other dental problems. It is very important that the baby’s bottle is hygienic at all time. Always use breast milk, water or formula in baby’s bottle and not juice, soda or any other forms of sweetened drinks as this is the very first step to preventing cavities in children. Also, do not put your infants to bed with a bottle unless it contains diluted water. A study shows that it is advisable to wait till the baby is about 12 months before you start giving them juice and then gradually limiting it to meal and snack times. Do not rush your baby to consuming solid meals.

Pacifier hygiene

If your child uses a pacifier, ensure that it is properly taken care of. Do not dip it into anything sweet like sugar and honey as this can cause cavities in your baby’s teeth. When the pacifier falls to the ground, do not attempt cleaning it with your mouth as cavity-causing germs can be transmitted to the child without you knowing. Also, always clean with hot water and if you decide to wash with soap, make sure you rinse thoroughly before returning it back into the baby’s mouth.

Limit the sugar intake

A study shows that it is advisable to introduce healthy eating to our babies. Always ensure to provide healthy snacks like meat, milk, butter, fruits and vegetables for them at all times. Also, learn to limit the sugar intake in quantity and frequency. Sugar gives bacteria the food it needs to thrive and create cavities in the tooth. Before the teeth begin to grow, gently wipe gums and inside of the mouth every day especially after feedings and before bed, with a clean, warm cloth.

Detect early cavities

It is better to detect early cavities in your baby’s teeth. Tooth decay is very painful and when it starts, it can affect the overall development of the child. Detecting early cavities is the best way to handle cavities. Plan a checkup routine to keep your child on top of oral health. Ensure that your child brush and floss by doing it with them. It is a fun way to guide them into a healthy brushing routine. This process gives you the opportunity to monitor their progress and brush time.

Keep to appointment

Establish the habit of keeping to dental appointment. An American study shows that the child’s first dental visit should be scheduled around his or her first birthday. Visit a dentist at least every six months interval for proper cleaning and checkup. This process allows you know when you have a cavity and how to prevent it from becoming a big problem.

Via Johns Hopkins Medicine: Tooth Decay (Caries or Cavities) in Children

What is tooth decay (caries or cavities)?

Tooth decay (destruction of tooth structure) is the disease known as caries or cavities. Tooth decay is a highly preventable disease caused by bacteria and other factors. It can occur when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches), such as milk, soda, raisins, candy, cake, fruit juices, cereals, and bread, are left on the teeth. Bacteria that normally live in the mouth change these foods, producing acids. The combination of bacteria, food, acid, and saliva form a substance called plaque that sticks to the teeth. Over time, the acids produced by the bacteria eat away at the tooth enamel, causing cavities.

Who is at risk for tooth decay?

We all host bacteria in our mouths which makes everyone a potential target for cavities. Risk factors that put a person at a higher risk for tooth decay include:

  • High levels of the bacteria that cause cavities
  • Diets high in sweets, carbohydrates, and sugars
  • Water supplies with limited or no fluoridation
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Reduced salivary flow
  • Age (children and older adults are at an increased risk for tooth decay)
  • Diets high in sweets, carbohydrates, and sugars

What are the symptoms of tooth decay and dental caries?

The following are the most common signs and symptoms of tooth decay and dental caries. However, each child may experience them differently. Signs may include white spots on the teeth that appear first. Then, an early cavity appears that has a light brown color on the tooth. The tooth color progressively becomes darker and a hole (cavitation) may appear. Symptoms, such as sensitivity to sweets and cold beverages or foods may occur.

How is tooth decay diagnosed?

Dental caries is usually diagnosed based on a complete history and physical exam of your child. This may be done by your child’s health care provider or your child’s dentist

How can tooth decay be prevented?

Preventing tooth decay and cavities involves these simple steps:

  • Start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first one appears. Brush the teeth, tongue, and gums twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste, or supervise them brushing their teeth.
    • For children less than 3 years old, use only a small amount of toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice.
    • Starting at 3 years of age, use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
  • Floss your child’s teeth daily after age 2.
  • Make sure your child eats a well-balanced diet and limit or eliminate sugary snacks.
  • Consult your child’s health care provider or dentist about the use of supplemental fluoride , if you live in an area without fluoridated water.
  • Also ask about dental sealants and fluoride varnish. Both are applied to the teeth.
  • Schedule routine (every 6 months) dental cleanings and exams for your child.

What is the treatment for tooth decay?

Treatment, in most cases, requires removing the decayed part of the tooth and replacing it with a filling.

What are fillings?

Fillings (also called restorations) are materials placed in teeth to repair damage caused by tooth decay (caries or cavities). Advances in dental materials and techniques provide new, effective ways to restore teeth.

There are several different types of restorations, including:

Direct restorations

These require a single visit to place a filling directly into a prepared cavity or hole. Materials used for these filings include dental amalgam, also known as silver fillings; glass ionomers; resin ionomers; and some composite (resin) fillings.

Amalgam fillings have been used for decades, and have been tested for safety and resistance to wear. Dentists have found amalgams to be safe, reliable, and effective for restorations.

Glass ionomers are tooth-colored materials made from fine glass powders and acrylic acids. These are used in small fillings that don’t have to withstand heavy pressure from chewing. Resin ionomers are made from glass with acrylic acids and acrylic resin.

Indirect restorations

These require two or more visits and include inlays, onlays, veneers, crowns, and bridges. These are constructed with gold, base metal alloys, ceramics, or composites. At the first visit, a dentist will prepare the tooth and make an impression of the area that will be restored. At the second visit, the dentist will place the new restoration into the prepared area. Some offices use newer technology called CAD/CAM (computer-aided design or computer-aided manufacturing) that allows them to produce the indirect restoration in the office and deliver it at the same appointment, saving the patient a return visit.

For an indirect restoration, a dentist may use an all-porcelain, or ceramic, application. This material looks like natural tooth enamel in color and translucency. Another type of indirect restoration may use porcelain that’s fused to metal, which provides additional strength. Gold alloys are used often for crowns or inlays and onlays. Less expensive alternatives to gold are base metal alloys that can be used in crowns and are resistant to corrosion and fracture. Indirect composites are similar to those used for fillings and are tooth-colored, but they aren’t as strong as ceramic or metal restorations.