Tooth decay (also known as dental caries or cavities) is the most prevalent childhood chronic disease in the US. 23% of two to five-year-olds suffer from the decay of one or more primary teeth. Is your child one of them?

Luckily, fillings are a common and effective treatment for dental caries in children. Dentists put in fillings after clearing away caries. These fillings can restore the tooth’s functionality and prevent the decay from spreading.

These treatments can be expensive, though, especially if you don’t have dental insurance. That’s why dental preventive care is critical for keeping your child’s smile healthy and your money in your pocket.

If you want to know what dentists and hygienists have to say about preventive dental care and its importance for preventing caries in children, keep reading this guide.

What Causes Dental Caries?

You need to know a little bit about how cavities can form before you can understand how to prevent them.

Tooth decay occurs when there is damage or destruction to tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is the outer layer of the tooth. It protects the underlying tissue (called dentin and pulp) from bacteria and injury.

When tooth decay accumulates, it can turn into caries, which are also known as cavities. Cavities are tiny holes in the tooth that come from bacteria. Bacteria turn leftover food on the teeth into acids, and these acids can destroy enamel.

Bacteria normally live on the teeth and gums. It’s only when these bacteria mix with leftover foods and drinks that the risk of caries increases. That’s why the best way to prevent tooth decay is to have good oral hygiene.

Is Your Child at Risk of Caries?

Anyone with bacteria in their mouth is at risk of developing cavities. As we mentioned, everyone has bacteria in their mouth naturally. So, in other words, every child (and adult) is at risk for cavities.

But there are some genetic and lifestyle factors that can further increase the risk of dental caries in children. These include:

  • A sugary diet
  • A diet high in starchy or carbohydrate-rich foods
  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Living in an area where the water supply doesn’t contain fluoride

Additionally, some children are genetically predisposed to having less saliva flow than normal. Other children have genes that lead to high levels of oral bacteria. Both of these factors can increase the risk of tooth decay.

Symptoms of Tooth Decay

You can help your child prevent caries by recognizing the early signs of tooth decay. Only then can you change your child’s habits to keep from having to get a filling.

Every child differs when it comes tom the progression of tooth decay. But most children experience the following before developing a cavity:

  • Small patches of white on the teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Signs of an early cavity, which appear as a light brown spot on the tooth

If left untreated, tooth decay can quickly turn into a cavity.

Symptoms of a Cavity

Do you think your child has a cavity already? Look out for the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained or sudden tooth pain
  • Sensitivity to cold or hot drinks or food
  • Visible holes in the teeth
  • Surface stains on a tooth

Take your child to a pediatric dentist ASAP if you notice any of these signs. Your dentist can perform a deep cleaning and filling treatment to address the cavity and prevent further decay from happening.

How Preventive Pediatric Dental Care Can Help

The risk of cavities in children depends on genetics and lifestyle choices. You can’t do much about your child’s genes. But you can help him or her make better choices to reduce their chances of getting a cavity.

Here are three scientifically proven and dentist-approved methods for preventing your child from developing caries.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Cavities can still happen even if your child eats a well-balanced diet. But focusing on reducing cavity-causing food consumption can significantly reduce the risk of caries. According to research, children who frequently eat the following foods are at a higher risk for cavities:

  • Sugary juices
  • Sticky sodas
  • Chips
  • Candy
  • Cookies
  • Cakes

Also, the more contact sugary foods and drinks have with the teeth, the greater the risk of cavities. This is why experts recommend not putting juice in sippy cups or giving children lollipops. Both of these can cause the sugar to stay in contact with tooth enamel for longer.

Adding healthy foods to your child’s diet is just as important as taking sugary foods away. High-calcium foods like cheese, milk, yogurt, and leafy greens can actually help protect your child’s teeth from tooth decay.

Supplement With Fluoride

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that children between the ages of six months and five years supplement fluoride. Fluoride is a natural mineral found in rocks. It can also help strengthen teeth and reduce the risk of caries by up to 60%.

Many cities supplement water sources with fluoride. But some areas, especially rural areas, do not. Children who grow up without fluoride supplementation tend to develop teeth with deeper grooves, which makes it more difficult to brush away plaque buildup.

If you live in an area without fluoride in the water supply, it’s critical to supplement with fluoride. Using toothpaste and mouthwash containing fluoride is a great way to do so.

Children up to three years of age should use products containing up to 1000ppm of fluoride. Children over three years of age should use products with 1350ppm to 15000ppm of fluoride.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Finally, teach your child to practice good dental hygiene. Here are the latest dentists’ recommendations for oral hygiene in children:

  1. Children should brush their teeth, gums, and tongue twice per day as soon as the first tooth comes in
  2. Children older than two years old should floss once per day
  3. Visit your local kids’ dentist twice per year for a routine cleaning

Visit Beaumont Kids Dentistry in Lexington, KY

Dental caries is more likely to occur in children who don’t take care of their teeth. Teach your child good habits young using these tips. And don’t forget to schedule your annual cleaning!

Are you searching for kids’ dentistry near you? Call Beaumont Kids Dentistry in Lexington to schedule your appointment today!