Prevent Tooth Decay in Your Child
Your child’s teeth are important. They play an important role in your child’s nutrition and speech. If they lose their teeth too soon, whether because of decay or trauma, the teeth that are left may move and not leave room for the other adult teeth as they come in. Tooth decay can also be painful and leave to more serious infections and conditions. Tooth decay in children (called Early Childhood Caries) is the most common chronic disease affecting children in the United States.
What Causes tooth decay?
Tooth decay is caused by acid producing bacteria infecting the mouth. For children, the most common cause of tooth decay is long periods of exposure to beverages such as milk and juice. These beverages should be offered at mealtime only. If your child enjoys having a sippy cup or bottle during the day, it should be filled with water only.
Signs of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay may begin at the gum line as white spots on the upper front teeth. A child with tooth decay needs to be treated early to prevent it from spreading and causing more damage.
How You Can Prevent Tooth Decay in Your Child
It starts with you. Make sure you receive a prenatal dental exam, and practice good oral health yourself. Setting a good example is the most important step in helping your child develop life-long good oral health.
Start early. Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, it’s important to take care of your baby’s mouth. Gently wipe your baby’s gums with a soft cloth after each feeding. Once you see the first tooth, you can brush your child’s teeth with a soft toothbrush, twice daily. Discuss with your dentist when toothpaste should be introduced.
Encourage a healthy diet. Limit juices to mealtimes, or not at all. Offer water between meals, instead of milk or juice. This limits the amount of time your child’s teeth are exposed to the sugars found in milk and juice.
Never let your child go to bed with a sippy cup or bottle filled with milk or juice. This can quickly lead to tooth decay (baby bottle tooth decay) due to prolonged exposure to the sugars in these drinks.
Don't share utensils, toothbrushes or cups Tooth decay is caused by acid producing bacteria. Parents and caregivers can spread this bacteria to children by sharing spoons, cups, etc.
Visit the dentist. A child’s first dental appointment should happen within six months of the first tooth coming in, or by their first birthday, whichever comes first. If you are concerned about your child’s oral health, make an appointment sooner. Early detection and intervention is key to good oral health.
Remember, tooth decay is preventable. By starting good oral health habits early, you can help your child have a lifetime of healthy teeth!
Community Dental—Gentle, Safe, Comprehensive Dental CareOur approach is to work with you to develop a comprehensive treatment plan designed to improve and maintain your good dental health through preventive and restorative services. We participate with Mainecare as well as many dental insurance plans, and offer a sliding fee for eligible patients. We offer walk-in appointments during business hours for dental emergencies. We treat all ages, so your whole family can become established patients with us. Good oral health care is an important aspect of your overall health. Contact us today or give us a call—we have several locations throughout the state and look forward to your visit!
Date Last Modified: February 3, 2016
Oral health risk assessment Timing and establishment of the dental home. American Academy of Pediatrics.
Oral health in America: A report of the Surgeon General. Nationl Institute of Dental Health and Craniofacial Research.
Accuracy of pediatric primary care providers’ screening and referral for early childhood caries.American Academy of Pediatrics.