Tooth decay often begins at an early age, making young children particularly susceptible. Nearly half of 2-11 year-olds have experienced tooth decay while 32% of kids between 9 -11 years old display cavities in their permanent teeth. Major contributing factors to this public health problem include baby formula with added sugar and heavily-sugared fruit juices. Even breast milk can cause cavities in baby teeth because of the natural sugars present.
Care for baby teeth should begin as soon as the first tooth appears. We recommend that you bring your child in for an exam no later than his or her first birthday. And regular six-month checkups from then on will put kids on a similar schedule to most adults. We can monitor your child for dental problems while customizing preventive coaching to fit specific conditions.
As a parent, some early steps can help guard your child against tooth decay, even before the first dental visit:
- Your baby's teeth should always be flushed with water or wiped down with a damp cloth after feeding, especially before they fall asleep. Milk or formula residue left in the mouth can promote decay even in the youngest patients. Untreated cavities can eventually lead to pain and infection.
- Try to wean your child off breastfeeding or bottled milk by age one year. This effort helps avoid decay and minimizes the chance of jaw growth problems from excessive sucking.
- Begin brushing as soon as the first tooth appears. Even a small piece of tooth showing can develop a cavity. Start by brushing with a soft bristled brush and water, and ask your dentist when it's ok to begin using a small amount of toothpaste.
- Once your child is old enough to begin brushing on his or her own, continue to monitor their brushing, going back to clean any areas they may have missed.
- Don't give bottles of sugary drinks or milk before bedtime
- Use a straw with sugary beverages to allow the teeth to have less contact with the liquid.
- Try to limit the overall sugary foods your child eats and drinks.