How to Check for Tooth Decay in Toddlers

Dr. Gellner: It’s never too early to start taking care of your child’s teeth. I’ll tell you how today on The Scope. I’m Dr. Cindy Gellner.
Announcer: Keep your children healthy and happy. You are now entering the healthy kids zone with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.
Dr. Gellner: The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease in the country. That is why it is very important for parents to work with their pediatrician to establish good oral care from the moment the first tooth comes through. Because pediatricians so often visit little ones for preventive medical visits in the first few years of life, we are in a great position to find out which children are at risk for dental health problems, educate parents on how to care for their child’s teeth should care and how parents find pediatric dentists in the area who take out their insurance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that tooth decay is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than allergies in children. More than 40% of children have tooth decay by the time they enter kindergarten. Children with cavities in their baby teeth are at a much higher risk of cavities in their adult teeth. We know that tooth decay is a problem that is largely preventable. So what can you do to help your child have his best smile?

First, make sure your child has fluoride. It is a naturally occurring mineral that is added to drinking water in most cities. It strengthens the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to acid attacks that can cause tooth decay. It also reduces the ability of dental plaque bacteria to produce acid and cause those nasty cavities. If you use bottled water or your city doesn’t have fluoride in the water, you can give your child vitamins with fluoride in them to help their teeth. You need to check and clean your baby’s teeth.

Healthy teeth should all be one color. If you see dark spots or stains on the teeth, take your baby to the dentist. White spots can sometimes appear as the frosting forms, so don’t worry too much about that. But once your child has a tooth, start using fluoride toothpaste the size of a grain of rice on the bristles. This is a change from the fluoride-free training toothpastes recommended by pediatricians and dentists until about 18 months ago. There was concern that small children might ingest too much fluoride, but studies show that the amount of rice grain is just the right amount to prevent tooth decay without being toxic.

Parents should brush their teeth at least twice a day. It is best to clean them right after breakfast and before going to sleep. Once your child turns three and gets better at rinsing and spitting, you can start using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. It is best if, as a parent, you put the toothpaste on the toothbrush until your child is about six years old.

Make sure you feed your baby healthy food. Choose drinks and foods that are low in sugar. Give your child fruits and vegetables instead of sweets and cookies. And be careful with dried fruits such as raisins, as they easily stick to the grooves of the teeth and can cause cavities if not thoroughly brushed off the teeth.

Chances are you know someone who has had baby bottle tooth decay. Milk, formula, juices and other sugary drinks such as soda all contain sugar. Sucking on a bottle filled with liquids containing sugar can cause tooth decay. Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle at night or during nap time if he has a few teeth.

Don’t give your baby a bottle filled with sugary drinks to use as a pacifier during the day, just walk from room to room and take a sip whenever they want. If your baby uses a pacifier, don’t dip it in anything sweet like sugar or honey. Around your child’s first birthday, you should teach your child to drink from a cup instead of a bottle. When your child gets his first few teeth, your pediatrician should discuss with you whether or not you want to have a family or pediatric dentist. Usually, a pediatric dentist will want to see the child on their first birthday or within six months of the first tooth coming out.

Some family dentists start seeing more children around their second birthday. At this first visit, your dentist can easily check your child’s teeth and determine the frequency of future dental checkups. Remember that early dental care is important to keep children’s teeth healthy and to teach them good oral hygiene.

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How to Check for Tooth Decay in Toddlers

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