Protecting your child’s teeth is essential to keeping your little ones happy and healthy. It may be a no-brainer that their oral health is important to their wellbeing, but understanding just how to take care of baby teeth might not be so simple. Fortunately, you have the Children’s Dental Center at your side, ready to help you with all things dental!

Early brushing and regular dental appointments are the way to go if you want to prevent tooth decay in your child’s teeth. Keep reading to learn all about tooth decay in children and the steps you can take to keep your child’s teeth healthy. 

What is tooth decay? 

Most people think that teeth are made completely of bone, but this isn’t true! Teeth are living body parts made up of several layers of different types of tissue. Tooth decay is a gradual breakdown of these layers, which could cause trouble with eating, speaking, and interacting with other children. Extreme cases could lead to tooth loss or infection. 

Stages of Tooth Decay

The top layer of each tooth is called enamel. When this layer begins to break down, your child is experiencing the first stages of tooth decay. Although tooth decay isn’t very painful or noticeable during this early stage, it can spread to the other layers of the teeth when left untreated. If tooth decay reaches the second layer of your child’s teeth, known as dentin, they may experience temperature or texture sensitivity. If decay reaches the third layer, known as the pulp, your child could feel extreme pain and serious tooth damage. 

Tooth Decay: AKA the Cavity Cycle

There are a variety of causes that could lead to tooth decay, also known as cavities, but it all comes down to sugar. Here’s how cavities form: 

1. Sugar Intake: When your child eats or drinks sugary foods or beverages, these sugars often get stuck in the cracks and crevices of their mouth. Over time, leftover sugar creates a sticky film over their teeth, called plaque. You can think of plaque as bait for bad bacteria. (Remember that all foods contain some sugar, so brushing is essential even with a healthy diet).

2. Bad Bacteria Takes the Bait: If a long enough time passes after your child eats sugar without brushing their teeth, bad bacteria drops in to eat the sugar that remains. 

3. Bacteria Creates Acid: Once the bad bacteria has eaten its fill of the sugar that remains between your child’s teeth and around their mouth, it produces acid waste that can erode the enamel of their teeth. The longer this acid sits, or the more times this cavity cycle repeats, the worse your child’s tooth decay becomes. 

This “cavity cycle” can repeat again and again as long as your child eats sugary foods without brushing their teeth correctly. Bad bacteria have no limits unless you or your child stop them yourselves. 

Preventing Tooth Decay in Children

It’s important to understand that anyone with teeth can get cavities, regardless of their age – this includes babies who have just grown their first tooth. Oral health maintenance should start during the first few months of a child’s life. Developing a good oral hygiene routine could be the difference between a healthy set of pearly whites and decaying teeth that need crowns. Here are a few ways to prevent cavities in your child’s teeth: 

Limit your child’s sugar intake: You can stop the cavity cycle in its tracks by limiting the amount of sugar they are allowed to eat and drink. While most foods contain sugar, the less sugar they take in, the better. It’s easier to prevent cavities in children who eat more carrots than they do candy. 

Encourage drinking water: Got water? When your child chooses to drink water instead of sugary drinks like soda or juice, they take a huge step towards oral health success. Water doesn’t contain any sugar at all, and it can even help flush out leftover sugar during and between meals. 

Brush twice a day: Brushing your teeth is one of the best ways to prevent cavities, right next to avoiding sugar altogether! By brushing your child’s teeth twice a day, you can help them clear away any sugar left behind from snacks or meals to keep bad bacteria away. While your children are young, you may need to help them hold their toothbrushes and teach them the right way to keep their teeth clean. 

You may think that because your child only has one tooth, they don’t need to brush their teeth. This could not be further from the truth! Their teeth are susceptible to cavities from the moment they erupt, so starting early is key to avoiding tooth decay. 

Model healthy habits: Your child is your mirror. Whatever you do, they’re going to follow. You can prevent tooth decay in your child’s teeth by preventing tooth decay in your own teeth! Lead by example and show them that a healthy diet and good oral hygiene routine can keep their teeth straight and the tooth fairy happy!

Visit the dentist regularly: Making appointments at the Children’s Dental Center is so important to your child’s oral health. Regular cleanings will keep their teeth clean and strong, and our team will also be able to recognize signs of tooth decay early on and prevent it from becoming worse. 

Preventing Tooth Decay in Children

Set Your Child Up for Success!

Following these instructions above will help your child keep their teeth happy and healthy for years to come, but it’s only a part of the solution! Be sure to bring your child to visit one of our dental professionals at the Children’s Dental Center to give them a leg up on oral health success. Set up an appointment at one of our offices in Germantown, Midtown, Arlington, or East Memphis today!