It may be surprising to learn that the most common childhood disease is tooth decay. It is a widely held belief that toddler tooth care isn’t important, because primary (baby) teeth will be lost once the permanent teeth begin to erupt. Most parents aren’t aware of the seriousness of this until a dentist recommends extensive work that costs time and money.
The rates of cavities in young children have been on the rise, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They report that one in seven 3- to 5-year-olds have untreated tooth decay. Diet plays a large role in this rising problem, as people of all ages are consuming more sweets and carbohydrates than ever before. The bacteria created by sugars feed on the calcium protecting the outer area of the tooth. Once that layer has eroded, the opening in the surface of the tooth becomes a cavity. Another reason for the increase in cavities may be the popularity of bottled water, as well as the discontinuation of fluoridation by public water municipalities. Public drinking water has been fortified with fluoride for many years. Fluoride is reported to strengthen tooth enamel, making it more resistant to the acidic byproduct produced by bacteria. Without this reinforcement, the bacteria have more opportunity to compromise the calcium layer of tooth enamel.
Young children and toddlers are not equipped to care for their teeth well until at least the age of six, since they lack the dexterity necessary to brush all of the back teeth surfaces. Parents tend to be surprised to learn that their children aren’t getting the job done correctly. They should start teaching their toddlers how to brush their teeth by doing it together. Make it into a fun game, where they watch you and mimic your motions. Once done, finish brushing their teeth to make sure it is done correctly.
There are steps parents can take to improve their toddler’s tooth care above brushing alone. Consider the root causes of tooth decay, and make an effort to minimize or eliminate them. For example, limit the amount of sugary and carbohydrate-laden food and drinks consumed, and reduce the frequency of meals. Parents are often shocked to learn that most juices are as sugary as soda and candy, and when their toddler has access to juice in a sippy cup all day, they are constantly coating their teeth in sugar. Brush their teeth at least twice a day, to remove the bacteria constantly building up on the enamel.
A large percentage of young children have anxiety related with dental office visits. Do some research to find a pediatric dentist skilled in recognizing and calming your child’s fear. Once you understand the source of their anxiety, you can offer them coping strategies that may alleviate their apprehension. Frequent dental visits are not only beneficial for obvious reasons, they will also help to make the process less intimidating and calm some of their fears.