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What Parents Need to Know

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Tooth decay is a very common problem, even among young kids. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 42 percent of children between two and 11 years old in America have had cavities in their baby teeth, and 23 percent of children in that age group carry them untreated. Baby cavities can pose significant problems for children but with the help of a dental professional, you can keep them healthy and cavity-free.

Why They're Important

Baby teeth will eventually fall out to make room for the permanent teeth, but that doesn't mean these early cavities aren't a concern. Early childhood cavities can lead to early tooth loss that complicates your child's oral care moving forward.

Decayed baby teeth that cause severe pain and early tooth loss is a cause for concern because these baby teeth act as guides for the permanent teeth's eruption. Without them, the permanent teeth may come in crooked. Ear and speech problems are another type of issue associated with decayed baby teeth. Keep in mind these issues can harm your child's self-image and decrease their quality of life. With the help of his or her dentist, however, you can prevent even the most prominent problems associated with decayed baby teeth.

How to Keep Ahead of Cavities

Among other aspects of their home care, pay attention to your child's mouth even before their first tooth appears. At first, wipe their gums with a damp washcloth after they eat, and once that first tooth does emerge, use a toothbrush and water to gently clean their teeth. When your child has learned to spit, you can graduate to a non-fluoridated toothpaste, to help keep their new teeth clean. As your child grows and learns to rinse, check in with your dentist about using a toothpaste that contains small amounts of fluoride. Although some parents choose to avoid it until a certain age, fluoride still helps to protect your child's teeth from cavities in moderate amounts.

Regular visits to the dentist are also important for children, and these visits need to start earlier than you might think. A child's first dental appointment should take place before their first birthday. At this visit, a pediatric dentist checks for signs of tooth decay or similar dental issues, while making sure you know how to care for your infant's or toddler's mouth to minimize complications.

What Can Help

If tooth decay is diagnosed in its early stages when the decay is limited to the enamel as a white spot lesion, your child's dentist may recommend remineralising treatments such as fluoride varnish. This can reverse the early symptoms of tooth decay by remineralising this area on the tooth enamel.

If the decay is more severe and involves the dentin or the pulp, remineralising treatments won't be sufficient and the teeth must be restored by a dentist. Luckily, advanced childhood tooth decay is treated the same way you would address adult tooth decay in your own mouth. This treatment may even involve familiar remedies like fillings or crowns. If the decay is uniquely advanced, however, the teeth may need to be extracted. Your child's dentist will advise you of the best treatment method after examining your child's teeth.

Baby cavities can cause ongoing problems for your child, but with the help of your dentist, you can keep your child's teeth healthy.