The CDC says 42% of children aged 2 to 11 have had cavities in their baby teeth. In addition, 21% of kids aged 6 to 11 have had them in their permanent teeth.
What is a parent to do to prevent cavities and promote a healthy smile for their little ones?
Pediatric Dentist Jenny Cavanaugh with smiLee Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics finds cavities in the youngest of patients in her Gateway practice.
“Dental decay is actually the most common chronic disease of childhood,” Cavanaugh explained. “It’s actually five times more prevalent than asthma.”
That’s why the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend a first dental visit no later than one year of age. But there are things you can do at home – beginning with brushing.
“Two minutes, two times a day. It’s never too early to start flossing,” Cavanaugh added. “We do recommend using fluoridated toothpaste, for kids we recommend a pea-size amount of toothpaste. For younger kids that aren’t able to spit out the toothpaste yet, we recommend using a small size of a grain of rice amount of toothpaste, that small amount of toothpaste will really help reduce decay.”
Some tips for setting a good routine:
- Brush your teeth together.
- Set a timer for two minutes so your kids know how long they need to brush.
- Let them practice on a doll or stuffed toy.
- Create an accounting system by adding stickers to a chart each day they brush without complaining, with a reward when they hit a certain number.
Cavanaugh said that rather than fill cavities, dentists much prefer to prevent decay with proactive interventions.
She also recommends visiting the dentist every six months to do a thorough exam.
“The dentist can do things like place sealants. Sealants, decrease decay by about 80%. Fluoride varnish the dentist places regularly over 6-12 month intervals can decrease decay up to about 30%,” Cavanaugh added.
The time and effort are well spent. CDC data shows children who start seeing the dentist before age five have dental costs that are 40% lower over a five-year period, and the impact can last a lifetime.
The biggest mistake parents make is letting young children brush alone.
Most kids don’t have the motor skills to brush effectively until they’re about eight years old.