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Tips for Helping Your Child Avoid Tooth Decay

December 6, 2023

by ross thornton, guest contributor

Children have a full set of baby teeth until they are 6 years old, between the ages of 6 and 12 your child’s baby teeth will slowly be replaced with adult teeth. Baby teeth have a thinner layer of the protective enamel that helps prevent tooth decay. This means that baby teeth are more susceptible to tooth decay which is why it is vital that your child's teeth are properly cared for.

Symptoms Of Early Childhood Tooth Decay

Early childhood tooth decay often first presents itself as a dull white strip or band on the tooth surface that is closest to the gum line. Because it's the area closest to the gumline that is affected, this symptom is often missed by parents. If this part of the tooth is consistently not brushed properly, the dull white strip on the gumline can turn yellow, and this is a sign that the tooth has advanced towards further stages of tooth decay. When the top of the tooth turns yellow, it often makes the problem more noticeable to parents. If this issue is still left untreated for extended periods of time your child may develop brown or black strips at the top of their teeth, signifying advanced tooth decay. Other symptoms of childhood tooth decay include:

  • Pain in the area around the tooth: If your child is experiencing toothache or pain around any of their teeth it could be a sign of tooth decay. This pain could either present itself as a series of sharp pains or a constant dull pain. Book your child an appointment as soon as possible with their dentist, or if your child cannot wait longer, you could also contact emergency dentists who operate outside of typical business hours. 
  • Sensitivity to certain food and drinks: Sensitivity to certain foods and drinks can be a sign that the protective enamel around your child's teeth has started to break down. Enamel helps protect teeth from bacteria that cause tooth decay, enamel is the hardest substance your body makes but it can be broken down over time. Once the enamel is broken down, teeth may start being more sensitive. If you or your child has sensitive teeth you should mention it to your dentist on your next visit. 

How To Prevent Childhood Tooth Decay

  • Brush your child's teeth twice a day: Brushing your child's teeth twice a day for two minutes increases the likelihood of brushing your child's teeth properly every day, meaning that your child will be less likely to develop tooth decay. Using a timer or finding a song of the appropriate time are great ways to ensure that you're brushing your child's teeth for the proper amount of time. This is something that they can easily use when they take over their tooth-brushing duties, as it is already part of their routine. 
  • See the dentist regularly: Ensuring your child visits your local dentist in Wakefield (or wherever you may be) at least once every 6 months can allow the dentist to spot problems within your child's mouth. When your dentist is able to spot tooth decay at early stages they can advise you and your child on areas of the mouth that are not being brushed properly, allowing you to course correct sooner rather than later. 
  • Have your child brush their teeth at the same time you brush your own teeth: Children usually start brushing their teeth on their own around 8 years old, but there is no reason why you shouldn’t start teaching your child how to brush their own teeth at an earlier age. By brushing your teeth at the same time your child is brushing theirs, you can monitor their progress and ensure that they are brushing their teeth properly. Your child will also have a visual example of how to brush their teeth properly from yourself.

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  • Once your child starts brushing their own teeth: When your child is ready to start brushing their own teeth you should check their teeth when they have finished brushing to ensure that they have brushed their teeth properly; send them back for round 2 if they aren't hitting all the right spots. 
  • Reduce sugar in your child’s diet: Excessive sugar consumption is a major cause of tooth decay, reducing your child's sugar intake can benefit the health of their teeth and their overall health. Instead of treating your child with chocolate and sweets as often, you can treat them with their favorite fruit instead, as most fruits have a far lower sugar content than many sweets and chocolate. However, fruit juices sold in stores may seem like a healthy option for your child but these fruit juices often contain a very high sugar content. Check the labels! 

Ensuring that you are brushing your child's teeth properly is incredibly important for the health of your child's teeth and mouth. Additionally, getting your child into the routine of properly taking care of their teeth can set them up for a lifetime of healthy teeth.

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