Phone (513) 251-5500
May 3rd, 2018

Here’s The Surprising Truth About Cavities in Toddlers & Preschoolers Today

Category: dental health

cavities in kids how to prevent them hagen dental

Cavities in toddlers, and even preschoolers, has been on the rise.

It’s not just slightly up in recent years: in fact, many of the preschoolers in the study had six to ten cavities, or more! That’s a huge jump up from historic numbers, and signals a real shift in oral health habits (1, 2).

The statistics appear to also be carrying over to kids who are just a bit older, too. Here are two other stats that we’re watching:

  • Roughly 28 percent of kids 2 to 5 have untreated decay in their teeth (5)
  • Roughly 20 percent of kids 5 to 11 have at least one untreated decayed tooth
  • Roughly 13 percent of kids 12 to 19 have at least one untreated decayed tooth (3)
  • Children 2 to 11 have an average of 1.6 decayed teeth and 3.6 decayed surfaces (5)

The problem is that tooth decay is one of the most chronic conditions for our children in the US right now. When we don’t help our little ones take care of their teeth like they should, it can negatively shape other behaviors in their life. It can negatively impact how they learn, play, eat and even how they speak (1, 2).

Let’s take a closer look at what you should know about taking care of your toddlers and preschoolers oral health.

Don’t Think It’s Too Soon to Start Taking Care of Their Teeth

A misconception is that because they are baby teeth and will eventually fall out, it’s okay to skip brushing or flossing. Yes, they will eventually fall out, but baby teeth actually have a vital role in helping your little one learn to chew and bite food the right way. They also influence how your child speaks, so you want to treat them as if they are permanent!

Even with just one tooth showing in the mouth, you can start brushing twice a day. Ask us about options, but typically, a safe route to follow is using a wet gauze square or even your finger to brush along your baby’s gumline (1). When they are old enough, you can just a soft brush made for children, and once again, you can stick with kid-friendly toothpaste which they can actually learn to enjoy. At this age, make sure they spit out all the toothpaste since they can have a tendency to want to swallow it.

Again, this is partially about setting the stage now for great oral health habits later, but doing this twice a day will actually make a difference when it comes to the bacteria in the mouth.

Make Sure You Are Aware

Awareness about oral health goes a long way…

We know you are attentive to changes or shifts in your toddler’s behavior. And, it’s no secret that a toddler’s behavior CAN shift easily as the months goes by, and part of that is expected! But, if you see what could be a toothache, any sort of sensitivity to foods or liquids (just like an adult would experience), or what could be pain when chewing, that could be a sign of a cavity.

Being tuned in and aware of these sometime subtle changes in your toddler’s behavior will go a long way in identifying and dealing with the issue. Just like any other changes in their behavior, don’t ignore it if you think you see something that could be indicative of a tooth problem or a cavity! Take note and tell us or your pediatrician.

surprising facts about oral health kids

Watch the Bottle

Sippy cups are great for our kids, but watch how long they are sipping on them all day, depending on what’s inside. Make sure you avoid letting your toddler go to bed with a bottle of juice. That’s been one of the many reasons tooth decay has been on the rise in children.

Overall, stay aware of the amount of time it takes them to drink certain juices, when you allow them to have them. Instead of letting them sip on it all morning or for 3 or 4 hours, allow them to drink the juice in a more condensed time frame, for example. This limits the exposure on the teeth and gums.

Set Up an Appointment at Hagen Dental Practice

Early visits to the dentist show your child the importance of their day-in and day-out habits. It also sets them up for a lifetime of regular check-ups. Not only this, it gives you an opportunity to ask us any questions you have about taking care of their teeth.

Typically, we tell families that a general rule of thumb is that the first dental appointment can occur near or around their second or third birthday, but by all means, we see kids before then, too.

It’s Not too Soon to Start Flossing

You can actually start to floss as soon as two teeth are touching. We’ve even seen some parents “go through the motions” before that when toddlers have older siblings who are practicing the habit, too. Again, it’s never too soon to get them into the routine. Remember how flossing gets as much as 30 to 40 percent of your teeth you would be missing otherwise!

Continue Great Nutrition

Aim to limit or avoid toddlers eating candy, fruit snacks, and gummies. Believe it or not, starting kids young with healthy foods IS possible! High-nutrient foods and liquids with calcium and vitamin D can help their total health as well as supporting strong teeth, mouth tissue, and gums.

…And That Includes Seriously Limiting the Sugar

You know that sugar is a major contributor to decay and plaque build-up in the mouth. Aim to switch out high-sugar foods and drinks with something high-nutrition. (At the top of the list to avoid with little ones: honey, maple syrup, molasses, and refined white sugar.)

Depending on their specific nutrient needs, those “switch outs” can include vegetables and other foods. Even unsweetened fruits can give them a sweet taste but without all that added sugar.

Did you realize that a single cup of orange juice can have more than 20 grams of sugar in it? Even some of the organic brands have more than 40 grams of sugar in just one serving (4) which is pretty shocking. So, instead of always turning to fruit juices, consider an option that doesn’t have so much sugar. It’s never too soon to start encouraging them to drink water, which can be a healthy habit for life

Know That Fluoride Is Your Friend

Children that tend to drink fluoridated tap water have fewer decayed teeth than children who don’t (3). Fluoride is just one more way to support your oral health, so talk to us if you want to learn more about the benefits of fluoride or even a fluoride supplement.

Don’t Stress Too Much About Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a normal part of your child’s development and isn’t typically going to be tied to cavities or decay. Put simply, rest easy because thumb sucking (or finger sucking) is acceptable for infants! As a natural reflex at that age, it helps to give your baby comfort and it can be soothing for them.

The idea is to be mindful of their thumb sucking, but not to worry too much. Most kids, between the ages of 2 and 4, start to give up pacifiers and thumb sucking. In many cases, pacifiers are easier to give up. In many cases, peer pressure also kicks in for the school-aged kids which helps them kick the tendency. Talk to us or your pediatrician if you have more questions.

If An Emergency Strikes…

Regardless of whether or not your toddler has any plaque build-up or cavities, if an emergency happens and your baby’s tooth is knocked out, don’t panic. Keep it moist, such as in a container of milk. Try to only touch the tooth by the top, rather than the root. Just like an adult tooth, you can rinse briefly with water if the tooth looks dirty. But be sure NOT to scrub off any attached bits of tissue. Do NOT try to put a baby tooth back into the socket or in their mouth!

Make sure you come in and see us as soon as you can so we can determine if the entire tooth came out or not. We will want to examine the injury to ensure there was no damage to the underlying permanent tooth. Dr. Hagen will decide what the best course of action would be based on the child’s age, the status of the tooth, and other factors! Although this is rare, we know it can happen and it’s great to be prepared for any scenario!

tooth decay hagen dental practice cincinnati ohio

Earning Your Trust With Personalized Care at Hagen Dental Practice

We believe the best dentistry will happen when there is a bond of trust with each patient! We’re pleased to provide a full range of dental care services to you and your entire family. Give us a call today at (513) 251-5500 or click the Online Scheduling button to schedule your next visit!





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