San Diego, CA – Did you know that dental decay and cavities in children is now five times more common than asthma? More than half of the children in the United States will experience a cavity by the time they are in second grade. But dental decay can largely be prevented.
“Some parents may mistakenly believe that because the baby teeth are going to fall out anyway, they don’t need to pay close attention to their young child’s oral health,” says San Diego pediatric dentist Dr. Santiago Surillo. “This is a huge myth, however. Dental decay can cause pain, and can interfere with how your child eats and speaks. From the moment your child is born, you can work to prevent cavities; in fact, mothers can work to ensure their children’s teeth are strong and healthy during pregnancy.”
Here are Dr. Surillo’s top tips for caring for baby teeth and preventing cavities.
- During pregnancy, mothers can ensure their mouths are healthy by maintaining regular dental exams and taking proper care of their teeth. Oral bacteria that causes decay can be passed from mother to unborn child. Additionally, women should eat a healthy and varied diet while pregnant to ensure their children’s teeth develop properly in the gums.
- Care for your child’s teeth begins before you can even see them. Wipe your baby’s mouth with a clean cloth after each feeding to prevent sugars from milk or formula from pooling in the mouth.
- Never put anything other than formula, breastmilk or milk in a bottle, and never allow your child to go to bed with a bottle.
- Avoid consumption of juice until after 12 months, and then limit it to only mealtimes. Avoid allowing your child to sip juice from a sippy cup all day, as this continuously introduces sugars to the child’s mouth.
- Begin brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears. You can use training toothpaste or simply a dry, infant toothbrush. Fluoride toothpaste should not be introduced until your child can easily spit the toothpaste out, or as directed by your dentist.
- Schedule your child’s first dental appointment with a pediatric dentist by his or her first birthday, and maintain all regularly scheduled appointments.
- Oral bacteria can be spread through sharing food and beverages. Avoid sharing, and never use your own mouth to “clean” a pacifier, spoon or cup your child has dropped. This introduces the bacteria from your own mouth into your child’s.
- Limit sweets to treats, and avoid starchy foods that can cling to your child’s teeth.
- Encourage your child to eat a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals such as calcium. Cheese and nuts are great snack options as they can fight tooth decay causing acids and work to re-mineralize the tooth enamel.
- Make oral health a priority in your family.
“Perhaps the best thing parents can do for their children is model good oral care,” says Dr. Surillo of San Diego Kids Dentist. “When your children see you taking the time to make your oral care a priority, they will likely follow suit. Make morning and evening tooth brushing a family affair, and start a relationship with a pediatric dentist at a young age. You can set the stage for a healthy and beautiful smile for life.”