Tooth decay is devastating, but can be prevented by parents
As much as we try to protect our children, growing up can leave kids with its share of scars, accidents and illnesses. But a recent study by researchers at Englands’s Newcastle University that was published in the journal Sociology of Health and Illness found that for some people, lost teeth is as devastating as losing an arm or leg.
In the study, 39 adults from the North East of England who ranged from their mid-20s to 80 were interviewed about experiences of tooth loss and replacement. The research suggested that tooth loss can be as disruptive as other chronic medical conditions.
There’s no better time than childhood to start healthy habits that will help kids keep their teeth into adulthood and beyond.
In children, tooth decay – also known as dental caries – is caused by certain bacteria. Frequent sugar intake and poor dental hygiene allow bacteria to grow. The bacteria ingest sugar and produce acid that results in tooth decay. When the surface of the tooth is first damaged, it appears as a “white spot.” The bacteria can then move into the nerve and blood vessels of the tooth. Because the dental enamel – the harder outer layer — of a children’s teeth is thin, tooth decay can happen quickly.
Meanwhile, this decay can can lead to pain, infection and ultimately, tooth loss.
In children, the following tips can help prevent tooth decay:
Limit sugary liquids during bottle feeding and don’t start the habit of dipping your baby’s pacifier in sweet liquids such as honey or corn syrup. Don’t let your child drink from a bottle continuously during the day or sleep with a bottle. Once they get older, avoid diets for your child that are high in sugars.
Fluoride prevents and slows tooth decay. It can even reverse tooth decay in its very early stages. There are several sources of fluoride – many cities infuse drinking water with fluoride. There are also fluoride gels, toothpastes, mouth rinses and supplements.
Minimize activities that transmit bacteria. For instance, avoid sharing utensils, food and drinks, and discourage kids from putting their hands in their caregiver’s mouth. Don’t lick a pacifier before giving it to a child, and don’t share toothbrushes.
From an early age, it’s important for a parents to take their kids to the dentist regularly. Many groups, including the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, recommend that parents take their infant for their first dental visit by his or her first birthday. Visiting the dentist early and regularly will allow the problems to be spotted and will allow parents and caregivers to be educated about their child’s oral health. Visit the San Diego Pediatric Dental Directory for a local pediatric dentist here in San Diego.