Toddlers & Cavities
Unfortunately, cavities are relatively common in toddlers. An estimated 42% of children between 2 and 11 will have one or more cavities. It is important to schedule your child’s first dental visit once their first tooth has erupted or before they turn one. Visits to the dentist when the child is young can help with early detection of a cavity and more importantly prevention through good oral hygiene.
There are several signs which suggest a child has a cavity. One of the earliest signs of tooth decay is white spots on the teeth. Fortunately, a cavity may not be present. Once a cavity has formed, it is typically light brown and as it grows and becomes worse, turns to a darker brown. It is important to make a dental appointment right away if the child complains of any tooth pain or sensitivity.
Baby Teeth Cavities
Toddler cavities are typically caused by tooth decay. This occurs when bacteria slowly accumulates over time. When bacteria is not properly removed, it creates an acid which can cause erosion to the tooth’s enamel. Once the enamel is damaged, small holes or cavities develop. Things that increase a child’s risk for experiencing tooth decay include: frequent consumption of sugar, failure to practice good oral hygiene, and not drinking fluoridated water.
Prevention of Tooth Decay
Cavities are relatively easy to treat, however, preventing cavities altogether is ideal. Preventing early tooth decay begins with good oral hygiene. The following tips are best practices for diligent oral care and the prevention of cavities:
- Early brushing: Begin brushing teeth once the teeth begin to erupt. Parents should make brushing the child’s teeth part of their daily routine. Parents can begin by cleaning the teeth with just water and begin using toothpaste when it is recommended by the dentist.
- Good oral hygiene: To help prevent cavities, teach the toddler to brush their teeth twice each day and floss. Parents should brush their child’s teeth if they are too young to do it on their own.
Toothpaste with fluoride: Toothpaste which contains fluoride can typically be introduced once the child is two.
- Avoid the bottle in bed. When the child is allowed to have juice or milk in the bottle at bedtime, the teeth are not cleaned before they fall asleep. If the child receives a bottle at bedtime, it should only contain water.
Avoid large amounts of sugar and starch: When the teeth are exposed to sugar, it allows bacteria to create acids which damage the enamel and that cause cavities in the baby teeth. If the child consumes juice or sugar, be sure to brush their teeth once they are finished.
- Regular dental visits: Children should begin visiting the dentist once their teeth erupt or prior to their first birthday. They should then visit the dentist about every 6 months for an examination and professional cleaning. These appointments also help to detect early stages of tooth decay.
Cavities can occur in toddlers, however, parents should work diligently to prevent them. This starts with being diligent and practicing good oral hygiene once the child has teeth. Teaching children how to take care of their teeth and ensuring they consume a balanced diet helps to set a good foundation for good oral hygiene as they grow.