As parents, we have a lot of responsibility towards our children. Perhaps one of the most significant responsibilities is caring for their health, and that includes the status of their teeth. Many parents unintentionally become lax about preventative dental care for their children, in part because their children have “baby teeth” that will eventually fall out and be replaced by permanent teeth. But just because your children’s baby teeth aren’t permanent doesn’t mean tooth decay can’t have permanent consequences for them. It’s painful, it can eventually cause abscesses and infections, and when children aren’t taught to care for their baby teeth, they often don’t know how to care for their adult teeth when the time comes.
The last thing you want is for your child to have to visit the emergency dentist due to complications related to tooth decay. But this happens more than you might think, with tooth decay being 20 times more common than diabetes and five times more common than childhood asthma. With that being said, let’s explore some of the reasons behind tooth decay that you need to teach your children about.
1. Dry Mouth
While some people have temporary dry mouth due to things that they have been eating or drinking, other people experience dry mouth due to health conditions, like inactive or inefficient salivary glands. You need to speak to your children and make sure that they aren’t suffering from dry mouth, as this can be symptomatic of more serious conditions and can also lead to tooth decay. This is because saliva is actually meant to wash plaque away from the teeth, and it furthermore acts as a buffer against acid. Therefore, bacteria and plaque can build up more quickly in people suffering from dry mouth, and tooth decay can occur more quickly. Ask your child’s pediatric dentist about whether or not they seem to be showing signs of dry mouth, and the two of you can make a plan to emphasize dental care for your children even more.
2. Unusual Tooth Locations
The harder a tooth is to reach, the harder it is to clean. You naturally need to have your children focus on cleaning their back molars and focus on brushing the grooves and niches of their teeth. Additionally, there are multiple roots involved in those teeth that are vulnerable to the complications related to tooth decay. Some children also have malformed teeth, located in places where they shouldn’t be or even overlapping. You need to address these teeth and how to correct their placement with your family dentist when your child is young, and until then teach your child to care for their teeth. Otherwise, tooth decay and infections can occur, ultimately leading to a potential trip to the emergency dentist.
3. Bedtime Snacks
When children have late-night snacks, the residue from their snacks often end up resting on their teeth for hours as they sleep, especially if they eat those snacks after they brush their teeth. This is why professionals within the pediatric dentistry field often advise not only against late-night snacks or drinks but also against feeding infants with baby teeth late at night. You wouldn’t think that you would end up in the office of an emergency dentist because of these seemingly small decisions, but they do have long term consequences.
4. Specific Foods and Drinks
Technically, all foods and drinks can potentially leave layers of residue that cause long term issues if the teeth are not properly cared for. But some are more destructive than others. Some of the most significantly harmful foods and drinks are milk, ice cream, honey, sugar, soda, candy, cookies, and chips. These foods won’t just lead to tooth decay and perhaps a visit to the emergency dentist someday; they also simply aren’t good for your kids’ health in general and should be avoided entirely or consumed in extreme moderation.
Clearly, a lot of parents need to think long and hard about not only what they teach their kids about dental care, but what they’re teaching them about tooth decay specifically. The more children care for their baby teeth, the more they’ll understand about preventing decay in their permanent teeth.