Even though we follow everything we’re supposed to, why does it feel like our kids get more cavities? Here’s what’s up and what you need to know.
No matter the age of the child, toothbrushing always seems to be a battle. Whether you’re the parent wrangling a crying toddler while brandishing a toothbrush or the one begging your teen to give flossing a try, getting your child to practice good oral hygiene often feels impossible. But, parents are superheroes, and we somehow manage to pull it off.
That’s what makes it even more discouraging when our child’s dentist tells us about a cavity. How can this be? We’re doing everything we’re told, fighting the good fight and making sure brushing and flossing happen no matter the meltdowns we face. Why does it feel like our children are more prone to cavities?
What Causes Cavities?
According to The Oral Health Group, there are three things that combine to cause tooth decay, or the breakdown enamel, and ultimately lead to cavities: the tooth, cariogenic bacteria, and fermentable carbohydrates. They go on to explain that some factors that cause tooth decay are controllable, while others are not. There is a sort of balance among these factors, and when a tooth is exposed to more pathogenic factors than it is protective factors, decay will result.
True to the name, there is not much you can do to change the uncontrollable factors of tooth decay. Things like having a medical condition or requiring a medication that reduces the antibacterial properties of saliva or your socioeconomic status are not situations you can easily change. However, it is possible to focus on the controllable factors to improve your child’s oral hygiene and reduce their chances of getting a cavity. We’ll discuss this more later.
Why Does My Child Keep Getting Them?
Cavities are one of the most common diseases in children of all ages, and My Dental and Vision Care notes that “by the age of 4, more than 1 in every 4 children has at least one cavity.” But, why does this happen? John Hopkins Medicine pinpoints five factors that make children more susceptible to cavities: high levels of the bacteria that cause cavities, the tendency to have a diet high in sugars and starches, home water supply with limited or no fluoride added, poor oral hygiene habits, and less saliva flow than normal.
How Can I Help Prevent Cavities?
There are many controllable factors involved in tooth decay that you can address to help prevent cavities in your child’s teeth. Instill good oral hygiene habits in your child. Ensure they are brushing their teeth in the morning and before bed to remove plaque, as this can act as a reservoir for bacteria and sugar. They should also practice flossing daily, as this cleans out places toothbrush bristles are not able to reach.
The American Pediatric Association recommends using a fluoridated toothpaste on children as soon as their first teeth erupt. Younger children will not be able to spit out the toothpaste yet, so only use a smear of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice. Once a child is around three years of age and gets the hang of spitting after brushing, you can increase to a dollop of toothpaste about the size of a pea.
Regular dental check-ups are also important in preventing cavities. Your child’s dentist will be evaluating their teeth at each visit, diligently looking for signs of decay. Early intervention can help prevent a cavity from forming; and, if a cavity is already present, getting treatment right away ensures decay will not continue damaging the affected tooth.
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