Babies’ and children’s teeth need extra care. Milk or ‘baby’ teeth have thinner enamel that’s less resilient to bacteria. That, compounded with the sugary drinks and foods that children often consume, causes tooth decay. Fear not, there are ways to minimise the risks of tooth decay. We’ll go into our expert advice on taking care of teeth in childhood, as well as some bad habits that we, as parents, can avoid to help our little ones.
The importance of ‘baby’ or ‘milk’ teeth
Though this first set of teeth will eventually fall out and leave behind their ‘adult’ set, they still need taking care of. If children experience tooth decay in their first set of teeth, they may encounter problems with their second set, as a result. Decay in milk teeth can cause abscesses, that harm the development of their adult teeth below.
In rare cases where decay is extensive, the baby teeth may need to be removed, and this increases the likelihood that the child will encounter orthodontic problems as their second set comes through.
The sugar issue, there’s no escaping it
As much as our little ones love sugary treats, they can do a lot of damage. If there’s plaque on their teeth, eating sugar can lead to decay. Sugar interacts with the bacteria within the plaque to produce acid. This acid slowly dissolves the shiny white protective shield on kids’ teeth (enamel), which causes cavities.
For this reason, avoiding things like fizzy drinks and sugary fruit juices is essential. If they are consumed, try to make sure it’s a rare treat alongside food, as the saliva produced by chewing food will help to neutralise the acidity in their mouth.
In addition to the obvious offenders, like fizzy pop, orange juice and chocolate bars, a lot of snacks contain hidden sugars that you may not be aware of - even those branded as ‘healthy’. Some extra foods to watch are honey, dried fruit, smoothies, breakfast cereals, yoghurts and even baked beans.
We know it’s a nightmare to cater to a little one’s fickle appetite, so if their favourite snack is listed here, try to source low sugar options in the supermarket, or ensure they’re consumed at mealtimes.
Habits that parents don’t realise cause tooth decay in babies
Every parent wants to take care of their child, and most will be aware of sugary drinks and sweets that can cause problems. But, you may be doing some additional damage through your everyday habits, especially if you have a baby or toddler.
It may not seem like a big deal, but sharing a child’s feeding spoon can cause decay! Research shows that bacteria can be transferred from your mouth to theirs when you share utensils or even kiss them on the lips.
The rising tooth decay problem in children
In 2014 a study was conducted into tooth decay in three year olds across Britain. The findings showed a wide variety of tooth decay levels, ranging from 2% to 34% of children in certain areas. This is largely affected by both affluence and the availability of fluoride in certain areas. Children in deprived areas were more likely to experience tooth decay than those in affluent areas, but this discrepancy was largely mitigated by fluoridated water in deprived areas.
How to help prevent tooth decay in children
There are lots of things you can do to help protect you little ones’ pearly whites.
When they are old enough, take them to the dentist. This can be as young as six months old. It’ll benefit your child to have proper tooth care from a young age and get them used to the process of going to the dentist without it being a big deal.
Brush teeth with fluoride
Ensure your child brushes their teeth twice a day for at least two minutes and that they use fluoride in their toothpaste. It’s recommended that you supervise your child brushing their teeth until they are at least seven years old.
Use a soft toothbrush
Children’s enamel is delicate, so dentists recommend they brush their teeth with a soft toothbrush to avoid damaging that essential outer protective layer.
Limit sugary foods and drinks to meal times
Try to limit how often your child eats and drinks sugary food and drinks, but if they are having sugar, try to ensure they only have it with other food, at mealtimes.
Getting your child to drink water instead of sugary drinks at mealtimes and throughout the day will help them form good habits for life.
We hope this was a helpful article. Please don’t hesitate to send any further questions our way by commenting below or heading to our Instagram page at @brushboxuk. Need to stock up on your kids’ tooth brushing essentials? No problem, click here for soft brushes, eco-friendly floss and fluoridated toothpaste tabs.