8 Preventive Steps to Zero Cavities For Your Kids

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When it comes to dental problems in children, caries, or cavities as they are better known, emerge right on top as the No. 1 health concern. Cavities are caused when sugars contained in food are turned into acid by the bacteria present in our mouth. Cavities can slowly destroy the whole tooth unless treated.

Some of the signs include chalky, white spots or bands on the tooth surface near the gums; a progression to yellowish brown discolouration; a cavity with parts of the tooth broken down. The symptoms that your child may complain of include sensitivity to cold food or drinks; pain; swelling or abscess formation. These symptoms or signs require a visit to a paediatric dentist. But here are the 8 preventive steps to zero cavities for your kids.

1. The Child’s 1st Visit to a Dentist Should be Near The 1st Birthday

Alternatively, the first visit should be within six months of the eruption of the first tooth. The first visit is important as the dentist will counsel you on teething and tooth eruption times, about cleaning the mouth after each feed, the risks of bottle-related dental caries, any habits to watch out for, as well as injury prevention.

2. Don’t Put The Baby to Sleep With The Bottle

This recommendation is met with the most resistance, with sleep deprived mothers horrified at the thought of having to soothe or rock the child to sleep as opposed to the convenience of sticking a bottle into the child’s mouth till he happily sleeps off on his own. If a bottle has to be given at night or during nap time, it should not contain milk, milk with additional sugars, formula, juices or beverages; it should contain only water. Feeding at bedtime allows milk to pool around the teeth through the night and can lead to a very severe and extensive form of tooth decay known as “baby bottle tooth decay” or “nursing bottle caries.” After each feed, it is recommend that parents wipe the gums and teeth of a baby with a wet cloth or gauze. The child should be weaned off the bottle and should progress to a sippy cup by the age of 1.

3. Night-time Brushing is The Key

Brushing two times a day with fluoride is a must. At night, the flow of saliva which usually assists in washing off food stuck on the teeth is reduced and acid production is increased. Using an age-appropriate amount of paste, and under parental supervision, the child must thoroughly clean the teeth and massage the gums. The child can use any method that is easy for her as long as all the surfaces of the teeth are cleaned,especially the insides of the back teeth. Kids should also be taught that brushing too hard is not always helpful and may damage the teeth and gums. Instead, brushing thoroughly is more helpful.

4. Flossing

As the permanent teeth erupt (around 6-7 years), flossing can be introduced to help clean the difficult-to-reach areas between the teeth. For younger children who are being trained, the floss on a holder is very helpful. Children must be taught not to snap the floss in between the teeth or it will injure the gums. It should be gently eased into place, wrapped around one surface of the tooth and then the other.

5. Choose The Right Sugars

A child’s diet is the single most important risk factor in cavities. A sugar-free diet would be easy to recommend but impossible to execute. Hence, it’s best to strike a balance by choosing appropriate foods. Good snack choices can be: Peanuts, walnuts, popcorn, whole breads, cheese, eggs, fresh fruits such as apples, oranges, and bananas, pieces of vegetables and salads, fresh juices and milk. Bad snack choices are: Cookies, doughnuts, pastries, sweet rolls, caramel popcorns, sweetened cereals, packaged juices, colas, and packaged chips. Remember, the stickier the food, the greater the decay potential. Substitute hardened candies, jams, jellies, and eclairs with a sugar that can be easily washed away.

6. Cut Down on Snacking

The frequency of intake is more harmful than the quantity of sugars consumed. For example, having a sweet or chocolate every few hours is far more damaging than consuming a large bowl of ice cream or any sweet savoury at one go. Sweets as treats should be restricted to meal times. Give teeth a rest for at least 2 hours between every meal and snack. It takes about that much time for the mouth to combat the effects of the acids produced by eating.

7. Seal The Teeth

One of the simplest methods of preventing cavities is to cover the chewing surfaces of permanent molars and other back teeth that may be at risk, with a thin coat of resin so that food does not get accumulated there to cause dental decay. Around the age of 6 to 7 years, when the first permanent molars erupt, consult your dentist and ask if the child requires sealants.

8. Fluoride is The Key

Fluorides help to strengthen teeth, reduce the accumulation of plaque and are also known to reverse the initial stages of cavity formation. They can be available most commonly in the form of toothpastes , fluoride mouthwashes, and tablets, and can be applied by the paediatric dentist at regular intervals depending on the child’s requirement. After the age of 2, a pea-sized dab of the paste containing about 500ppm of fluoride. e.g. Colgate Junior and Cheerio Gel Toothpaste, can be used. After the age of 6, the child can switch to a standard fluoride toothpaste (1,000ppm of fluoride). A fluoride mouthwash can be used after the age of 6 and the dentist can also apply concentrated fluoride in the form of a gel or varnish to offer a protective coating on the teeth. It helps prevent cavities.