8 Steps to Preventing Tooth Decay and Cavities in Toddlers
Tooth decay and cavities can strike as soon as those first baby teeth emerge. With a little care, you can help keep those pearly whites healthy. Here are eight steps to help prevent tooth decay and cavities in toddlers.
1. Bedtime Habits
More dentists today say they are seeing toddler patients with cavities. Dr. Allen D. Bagdade, a pediatric dentist in Arlington Heights, Illinois, says one reason toddlers develop cavities is because of their bedtime habits. He says toddlers develop bottle decay by sleeping with a bottle of milk or juice at night.
2. Don’t Dip the Pacifier
Dr. Bagdade also warns against the popular technique of dipping a pacifier in sugar, molasses, or other sweetener to comfort a baby or toddler. “That’s the worst thing you can do,” he says. The sticky substance will just sit on Baby’s teeth as he sucks, which leads to tooth decay.
3. Keep a Food Diary
Dr. Bagdade recommends parents keep a food diary of everything the child eats or drinks. He says parents are often very surprised by how many refined sugars and carbohydrates their child is consuming in a typical week.
4. Caring for Teeth
Parents can take some steps to help their toddler develop good oral hygiene, although tooth brushing and is not recommended for very young children. Dr. Bagdade says parents should wipe their toddler’s front teeth with a 2-by-2-inch piece of damp gauze.
5. Flossing and Brushing
Children should not floss until they are 3 years of age, although they may begin brushing at about age 2 with a tiny tooth brush. By age 3 children should have an established routine of brushing their teeth after breakfast and before bedtime.
6. The First Trip to the Dentist
Before taking a toddler to see the dentist, talk about the differences between the doctor and dentist. Many toddlers may associate doctors with shots. And try not to overload them with too much information and remain upbeat, Dr. Bagdade says.
7. When to Make the Appointment
Dr. James Bennett, with the South Florida Dentistry for Children and Orthodontics in Coral Springs, Florida, says it’s important to make an appointment for your child’s first oral examination six months after the eruption of the first primary tooth or by age 1.
8. Finding a Dentist
Dr. Bennett, who has 2 1/2-year-old fraternal twins who both love brushing their teeth, says it’s important to establish a “dental home” for your child just as a parent would with a pediatrician. He says the dentist will go over toothbrush techniques with you and your child.
9. Filling the Cavity
So what to do if your toddler ends up with cavities? Most parents may be surprised to learn toddlers who have several cavities may have to be treated in the hospital under general anesthesia.
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