how to prevent tooth decay in your child

Question: How Can I Prevent Tooth Decay in My Child?

Tooth decay, or cavities, can cause toothache and other serious dental problems. The good news is, mummy and daddy can help prevent tooth decay from harming the little one’s pearly whites. Here’s how!

How are Cavities Formed?

Cavities (tooth decay) are formed when the bacteria in our mouths feed on the food we eat — usually carbohydrates such as sugar and starches.

This produces acids that slowly eat into our tooth, slowly breaking down the enamel beneath the tooth’s surface, while the surface remains intact. When enough of the enamel is eaten away, the surface collapses, forming a cavity.

Related: Early Childhood Caries (ECC)

How to Prevent Cavities?

Maintaining good oral hygiene is a must!

Brush twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste

Brush at least twice a day for two minutes each time and floss daily to remove plaque between teeth. Toothpaste that contains at least 1000 parts per million (ppm) fluoride prevents tooth decay. 

Fluoride in toothpaste protects your child’s teeth from tooth decay by strengthening it. However, children can get fluorosis on permanent teeth from swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste. Fluorosis results in a change in colour or texture of the teeth.

To prevent fluorosis, ensure that an appropriate amount of toothpaste according to your child's age is dispensed and that your child does not swallow the toothpaste.

Bring your child for early dental checks, as early as 1 year old, so that the dentist can advise you on the appropriate use of toothpaste.

Due to the concern for dental fluorosis, the recommendation for use of a smear amount (size of a rice grain) of 1000ppm fluoride (F) toothpaste for children below 3 years old should be limited to those at high-risk for dental caries. At the first dental visit, the dentist can determine your child's caries risk and make the appropriate recommendation for toothpaste use.

For children 3 years old and above, who are less likely to swallow toothpaste, use a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.

Related: 6 Tips to Make Brushing Teeth Fun for Kids

Visit the dentist

Bring the little one for regular dental check-ups. Preventive care can help stop problems from occurring and keep minor problems from becoming major ones. As cavities attack beneath the tooth’s surface, it will not be immediately visible to mum and dad whether your child has a cavity or not until it’s too late. Only a dentist will be able to nip the problem in the bud.

Related: Dental Check-Ups For Teens

Eat and drink less sugar

Make sure junior eats a well-balanced diet with a limit on sugary foods and beverages. Frequent intake of sugary foods and beverages cause tooth decay. Keep to 3 main meals and 2 snacks a day. Drink water instead of juice or carbonated drinks. The tap water in Singapore also contains fluoride, which has been shown to effectively fight tooth decay.

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References:

  • Protect and Repair Your Teeth. Retrieved November 2018 from https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/healthy-teeth-17/index
  • John Donovan. (2016, December 16). Myths and Facts about Cavities. Retrieved November 2018 from https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/cavities-myths#1
  • MOH—Water Fluoridation to Prevent Dental Caries. Retrieved November 2018 from https://www.moh.gov.sg/content/moh_web/home/pressRoom/Parliamentary_QA/2010/Water_fluoridation_to_prevent_dental_caries.html