Preventing Preschool Caries
It’s an unfortunate combination in young children: trends toward too much sugar (even from “healthy” carbs like whole-wheat crackers) and too little toothbrushing (allowed by parents who don’t want to force their toddlers to do something they don’t enjoy), along with some nasty bacteria called mutans streptococcus. The result is a significant rise in dental caries—the infection commonly known as “cavities”—in American preschoolers. Four million preschoolers, in fact—40% of children age 2 to 5—have at least one cavity, up from about 3.4 million a decade ago.
Genetics plays a role in caries susceptibility; a child of parents who had multiple cavities in youth will be more likely to suffer as well. Still, severe caries is not inevitable even then. Because the bacteria thrive where sugar is present, creating acid that leaches calcium from teeth and weakens their structure, dental-health vigilance to eliminate sugar on tooth surfaces becomes even more important.
Of course, parents should try to keep the teeth of any preschooler as strong and sugar-free as possible. Here’s how:
- Keep the consumption of sugar—and foods that turn to sugar, like breads—to a minimum. Gobbling a big candy bar in 10 minutes, then brushing—while not a good daily habit for a small tummy—is better for a preschooler’s teeth than nibbling on tiny crackers or sipping fruit juice off and (mostly) on all day long. Sugar stays on the teeth, and the bacteria feast.
- Have your child brush at least twice daily to physically remove sugars from tooth surfaces.
- Supply fluoride, as prescribed by us or your child’s doctor, especially if your preschooler drinks mostly unfluoridated water. Fluoride strengthens tooth structure.
- Ask us about giving your child lollipops flavored with xylitol, which can kill cavity-causing bacteria.
Multiple cavities in a frightened preschooler are challenging to treat. Some dentists turn to general anesthesia—which has its own risks—to more easily treat all the teeth at once. It’s far preferable to try to prevent caries in the first place, even if a nightly tiff with Tiffany at teeth-brushing time is the result.
And don’t forget to bring your child to KiDDS Dental for a dental check-up several times a year. That way, we can assess your child’s oral health and suggest ways to prevent preschool cavities.
If you have questions about cavity prevention, click here to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jared. Or give us a call at (509)-891-7070.