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Decay Prevention

Developing healthy dental hygiene habits helps protect your child’s teeth
throughout their entire lives, so getting started early is essential. 

Developing healthy dental hygiene habits helps protect your child’s teeth throughout their entire lives, so getting started early is essential. 

A child’s oral health must be protected from birth through adolescence and into adulthood. Unfortunately, many children develop tooth decay early in life – a condition that can progress into serious oral health problems. Keeping a child’s teeth strong and healthy requires preventive measures. At our pediatric dental practice, prevention is the foundation of all we do. After all, it is far easier and more affordable to avoid oral disease than it is to treat it.

Did you know…

that most children do not get the preventive dental care that is recommended for them? According to the Department of Health and Human Services, only half of U.S. children visit a dentist for preventive purposes each year. Of those who do, children under age 5 are least likely to see a dentist compared to older children over age 6. But early childhood prevention is important for establishing a healthy mouth that lasts a lifetime.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should preventative dentistry start for my child?

Prevention begins early. A mother’s diet while pregnant will contribute to a child’s developing primary teeth in the womb. Additionally active cavities in the parents of a child can be risk factors for the child to develop cavities as an infant. After birth, parents should cleanse a baby’s gums and begin brushing the teeth gently as they emerge. Infants should visit a pediatric dentist for a preventive care exam no later than age one.

Besides brushing, what else can be done to prevent cavities in kids?

Diet plays a critical role in a child’s dental health. Sugar feeds the bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease. Limiting foods and beverages containing sugar — whether it is naturally occurring or added sugar — deters cavities and helps protect the enamel. Avoid giving your child juices, sweet tea, candies and sodas, and never let your child go to bed with a bottle, even if it contains breast milk. Children who take a bottle or breast feed after getting their baby teeth are at risk for developing cavities.

What can my child’s pediatric dentist do to prevent decay?

Depending on your child’s age, oral health and risk factors, a pediatric dentist may recommend in-office preventive treatments to help stave off tooth decay. For example, fluoride treatments may help strengthen the teeth – especially in children with low exposure to fluoride in local water sources or at a high risk for cavities. Another option is dental sealants, which are placed on newly erupted permanent molars to fill in pits and crevices that are susceptible to decay. As your child grows and becomes more active, his or her dentist may recommend the use of a sports mouth guard when participating in contact sports like basketball, baseball, or softball.

What are healthy snacks for kids?

“Mommy, more goldfish?” “Daddy, I want Skittles!” Temper tantrums in the cereal aisle or by the candy display at checkout. A lollipop to shut up the little rascals. These are all common things parents experience while raising kids. Sugar in this day and age is nearly impossible to avoid, but it’s important to limit sugar intake in children. Snacking between meals can also lead to the development of cavities, but here are some tips for healthy snacks to prevent cavities in children.

  • Avoid the sticky stuff: Gummy snacks (even if made with fruit), trail mix with sticky raisins, and even fruit leathers made with natural fruit are fertilizer for tooth decay. The sticky nature of these treats can stay on teeth for hours after consumption, and it’s this duration of contact time with teeth that spike the risk for tooth decay.
  • Avoid the starchy stuff: Goldfish, crackers, crunchy cookies, and even cereal bars can contribute to cavity development. When these starchy snacks mix with saliva, they create a sticky paste that can stick into the nooks and crannies of teeth. Even if it’s not sugar, simple carbohydrates can feed the germs that cause cavities.
  • Pick whole fruit: “Mommy, I want apple juice.” Give them an apple. Eight ounces of apple juice contains 5 apples. Imagine eating 5 apples…you’d have to skip lunch after. Fruit juice is concentrated sugar water without the vitamins, fiber, and satiating benefits of eating whole fruit.
  • Snacks with low potential to cause cavities: Foods made from whole grains, vegetables, and snacks with higher protein or fat content are great ways to prevent cavities. Cheese, like string cheese, nuts, and deli meat have high protein contents and little-to-no sugar. Vegetables, like carrots, celery, and sweet potatoes, have low glycemic indexes, aka they don’t cause a sugar spike. Whole grains have fewer simple carbohydrates which cavity-causing bacteria crave. Before you know it, your kid might be asking you for “more charcuterie board, mommy!”

Is fluoride healthy for my kid?

At Southern Smiles, we follow the most vetted and reviewed research and we take an evidence-based and scientific approach to treating your child. The scientific community, including pediatricians, public health experts, and most importantly pediatric dentists, support the use of fluoride for children. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend the use of a fluoride toothpaste in all children. The most important factor is the dose! Fluoride has been hailed as one of the most important public health contributions by the CDC, Office of the Surgeon General, and the World Health Organization. Fluoride, in appropriate amounts, is healthy for your child and is one of the best ways to fortify tooth structure that is at risk or has been weakened by tooth decay. At Southern Smiles Pediatric Dentistry we recommend the use of a fluoride toothpaste in all children. 

  • For children 0-3, the size of a grain of rice of fluoride toothpaste is appropriate.
  • Once your child can reliably spit out toothpaste after brushing, you can increase the amount to the size of a pea.
  • The dose of fluoride in these recommended amounts doesn’t come anywhere close to putting your child at risk for complications with excessive fluoride exposure, and the benefits to prevent tooth decay (and more visits to the dentist) are vast!
  • Additionally, professional applications of fluoride at the dental office are extremely beneficial as we will apply the fluoride not just to all teeth, but also specifically to teeth at risk for cavities.

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promoting healthy, happy smiles

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