Tooth decay in children is more common than you may think. More than half of all children in Singapore have one or more rotten teeth by the time they start primary school. While factors like fluoride use and bottle-feeding can affect your child's chances of developing cavities, all kids are at risk for tooth decay. Start taking good care of your little one's teeth early to keep their mouth healthy.
The Process of Decay
When bacteria and sugars in the mouth mix, they form acids. These acids can attack the hard, outer layer of teeth, known as the enamel. The enamel begins to wear down as minerals are lost. You may notice white spots on your child's teeth if this is happening.
This early decay can be repaired by reintroducing minerals to the teeth through fluoride use and a healthy diet. When the enamel breakdown process is allowed to continue without remineralisation, the hard outer layer can be destroyed. The enamel will develop a cavity, which needs to be examined by a dentist and filled to prevent more damage. What can you do to prevent this process from getting out of control?
Fighting Tooth Decay in Children
Baby bottle tooth decay is one cause of early childhood tooth decay. When a baby or toddler is allowed to go to sleep with a bottle or carry around a sippy cup of juice or milk all day and especially at night-time, their teeth are constantly exposed to sugars and carbohydrates. To protect your little one's teeth, don't put them to bed with a bottle.
Once they are ready, encourage them to drink out of a cup. While babies and toddlers are too young to brush with a fluoride toothpaste, they can benefit from drinking fluoridated water or taking fluoride supplements. Talk to your dentist about your child's fluoride use.
While they are still little, you can clean their mouth with water and a cloth or a soft-bristled toothbrush. Ask your dentist about using a fluoride-free toothpaste for toddlers. Once your child is old enough to spit, start brushing their teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day. You can brush and floss their teeth yourself. If your child likes to be independent, brush their teeth first yourself and then let them brush a second time; the extra brushing can't hurt!
Good childhood dental care starts with regular visits to the dental clinic. You can make that first appointment when the first teeth erupt, or at least by the time your child turns one.
Why are early visits so important? Recognising the early signs of tooth decay in children is not always easy. Your dentist can tell you how your little one's teeth are doing and recommend anything to help protect against decay, like fluoride treatments or dental sealants. Also, it doesn't hurt to get a few oral care pointers from a dental professional. Don't be afraid to ask questions that could help you take better care of your child's teeth.