Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease—5 times more common than asthma, 4 times more common than childhood obesity, and 20 times more common than diabetes. Despite being so widespread, cavities are nearly entirely preventable. Parents can help their children combat childhood cavities by identifying some common causes of cavities.
1 – Poor Diet and Nutrition
One of the primary ways parents can help prevent cavities in their children’s mouth is by providing them with a healthy diet. Many parents understand the overall importance of a healthy diet, but are unaware of some dietary habits that could also increase their child’s cavity risk.
Sugary beverages are one of the leading sources of sugar for children, and some can even be disguised as “healthy drinks” like nutritional water or sports drinks. Allowing children to sip on sugary beverages over long periods of time increases their exposure to sugar, and acid attacks that can erode their enamel. The best way to avoid this is by serving them only water, or having them brush their teeth after drinking a sugary drink to remove any sugar left on their teeth.
Crackers and Chips
Many parents can identify dietary risks like candy and high-sugared treats, but it can be harder to define snacks that appear OK, but actually destroy tooth enamel. One such group of snacks is starchy snacks like crackers and chips. Starchy snacks stick on teeth long after the meal has concluded, and eventually turn into an all-out-acidic-assault on teeth. If your child does enjoy starchy snacks, be sure that they rinse their mouth out with water after their snack to remove any food debris that could lead cause tooth decay.
When preparing your child’s diet, try to incorporate as many nutrient-rich foods as possible. Focus on adding whole grains, healthy proteins like beans and nuts, and fibrous vegetables like carrots and celery – which clean teeth as they’re consumed. Also, substitute the majority of their drinks with water, which naturally cleans teeth by stimulating saliva production.
2 – Improper Oral Hygiene
It seems like a no-brainer, but you can help your child avoid cavities by simply following a proper oral healthcare routine. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says that children should brush for two minutes at a time, twice per day, and floss once per day. When flossing, make sure that your child flosses both sides of their teeth and below the gum line. If they have difficulty flossing, then you can help them by getting them dental tape – which is wider and easier for children to use. You can help your child establish a routine by brushing with them, or finding some fun oral health videos online that makes brushing fun.
If your child isn’t old enough to floss or brush on their own, then we suggest doing it for them until they acquire the dexterity needed to properly care for their mouth.
3 – Lack of Knowledge
When it comes to healthcare, there are many knowledge gaps for parents on a variety of subjects – and that includes pediatric dentistry. The best place for parents to find reliable oral healthcare information is at their pediatric dentist’s office. Pediatric dentists have been specifically trained to care for children’s teeth, and understand the unique needs of a developing mouth.
If your child doesn’t have a dental home with a pediatric dentist, then use our pediatric dentist locator tool to find their dental home today. A pediatric dentist will help your child achieve optimal oral health, and give you actionable information that you can use at home. After establishing a pediatric dental home, be sure to visit twice per year for a regular checkup, or at the discretion of your child’s pediatric dentist.