Keep Tooth Decay at Bay
Tooth decay is one of the most prevalent diseases affecting children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42% of 2- to 11-year-olds have cavities in baby teeth; 21% of 6- to 11-year-olds have cavities in permanent teeth. And tooth decay doesn’t just lead to cavities: When left untreated, it can lead to malnourishment, learning and speech delays, and even deadly bacterial infections.
To put it in perspective, tooth decay is actually five times as common as asthma and seven times as common as hay fever. But unlike asthma and hay fever, parents have the ability to reverse the effects of tooth decay. That’s because decay is a process in which bacteria attacks the enamel of the tooth. If you catch the decay early, you can avoid cavities or more serious problems down the road. Keep your child’s risk of tooth decay low by following these tips:
- Watch the snacks. Every time your child eats something sugary or starchy, the food combines with bacteria in the mouth to create acids, the precursors to decay. Saliva is the best weapon against these acid attacks, so the longer your child’s mouth gets a “break” between eating to let saliva do its job, the better. If he or she wants to snack between meals, stick to healthy, low-sugar choices such as vegetables or cheese.
- Skip the sodas. Sugary, acidic drinks like fruit juice, energy drinks, sports drinks and sodas are tooth decay’s best friends. Have your child stick to water.
- Brush regularly. If your child is less than 6 years old, assist his or her toothbrushing routine to ensure that the teeth receive a thorough cleaning. Because young children tend to swallow most of what’s on the brush, use just a dab of toothpaste. Older children can brush their own teeth, but make sure they are doing so for at least two minutes, twice a day.
- Visit your dentist. Professional cleanings are necessary to remove trapped food particles and monitor early signs of decay. If your child does have a cavity, it’s important to get it treated right away to prevent further complications.
Fortunately, tooth decay is preventable and treatable. By following these tips, you can minimize tooth decay and establish good oral health habits for life.
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