Dental Caries or Tooth Decay is one of, if not the most, common diseases in children across the United States.
Good oral health and prevention of caries starts even before the first teeth erupt and continues throughout childhood.
Why healthy infant and child teeth (baby teeth) are so important:
These early teeth are not only vital for learning to chew, eat, and speak properly but they also act as placeholders for permanent teeth.
Early decay or loss of baby teeth can lead to misaligned, crooked, or crowding of permanent/adult teeth.
Decay also occurs more easily in these teeth, as the enamel is not as hard as the enamel on permanent teeth.
Finally, treating problems with these early teeth can be much more challenging due to the young age of the children involved.
- Simple fillings or other procedures often require sedation due to the child’s age or lack of cooperation and sedation caries its own set of risks as well.
Age based strategies:
0-6 Months (Before Teeth Erupt)
- Never put anything from a parent/caregiver’s mouth into your infant’s mouth, as this can transmit caries causing bacteria.
- Get in the habit of putting your child to sleep without a bottle or nursing as this will be very important once teeth are present.
- Avoid sweet drinks, such as juice, and never dip pacifiers in juice or sweet drinks.
6 months (or when first tooth erupts) – 3 years
- Incorporate teeth brushing twice daily.
- Use a small smear (the size of a grain of rice) of Fluorinated toothpaste.
- Introduce fluorinated water (4-8oz per day to start) and/or mix formula with fluorinated water if using formula.
- If you have well water or your city does not have fluorinated water talk to your pediatrician about oral fluoride supplements for your child.
- Avoid putting your child to sleep with bottles or while nursing, and clean/brush teeth before bed.
- If they do go to bed with bottles only use water.
- Limit or avoid all sweet beverages such as juice, sport drinks, soda.
- Talk to your pediatrician about oral health and fluoride treatments.
- Establish a dental home and start dental visits at 12 months old.
3 years +
- Continue twice daily brushing but increase to a pea sized amount of fluorinated toothpaste.
- The best times are right after breakfast and right before bed.
- Assist and supervise with brushing until the child is proficient (usually around 8-10 years old)
- Teach your child to spit after brushing, without rinsing.
- Introduce flossing.
- Continue regular dental care at your child’s dental home.