23 Sep Cavity Protection in Children
Keep Baby Teeth Healthy
Did you know that primary teeth are just as important to keep cavity-free as permanent teeth? Although primary teeth are meant to fall out eventually, they still need to remain healthy for the time that they are around. An untreated cavity on a baby tooth can result in decay that reaches all the way to the root and leads to much more serious dental issues, such as an infection of the gums or abscess. Sometimes, a decayed primary tooth can damage the un-erupted permanent tooth below the gum-line. Or decay on a primary tooth can spread to a neighboring permanent tooth, resulting in a cavity that could have been easily prevented by treating the primary tooth.
All these scenarios can lead to painful symptoms for your child. Many parents might reason that they can save some money by putting off treatment of a cavity on a primary tooth since that tooth will eventually fall out. The problem with this reasoning is that the decayed baby tooth might not be ready to fall out for many years. For most children, their last baby tooth will fall out around age 12. The best course of action is to treat decay as soon as possible, regardless of if the tooth is a baby tooth or permanent.
Cavity Prevention for Children
It is also important to practice cavity prevention by establishing good oral hygiene practices early in your child’s life. Headstrong, independent children can mean well but might not be able to brush and floss their teeth as effectively as they should. Until a child can properly brush and floss all teeth at least twice per day, front-to-back and top-to-bottom, parents should try their best to supervise and help when needed.
Parents can make brushing teeth fun by picking out a toothbrush that plays music or flashes lights for the recommended two minutes. Or they can simply find a toothbrush with their child’s favorite movie character printed on the handle and purchase a plastic hourglass to keep by the bathroom sink.
Many children respond well to visual aids and would benefit from seeing how long they need to brush. Another helpful visual aid is the chewable plaque-disclosing tablet. These can be purchased online or in major stores. A child would brush as normal, then chew a disclosing tablet and swish it around in their mouth. After spitting out the excess into the sink, residue from the disclosing tablet will have adhered to any plaque remaining after your child has brushed their teeth. This serves as an excellent visual aid for a child to learn which areas of the mouth to better focus on when brushing and flossing. The areas where plaque remains after brushing are the most at-risk for developing cavities.
Kids’ Regular Dentist Visits
In addition to at-home care, it is important to keep up with your child’s regular dental office visits to prevent cavities. For a child that keeps up with their oral hygiene at home, brushing and flossing twice per day, it is recommended that they visit their dental hygienist every six months for a teeth cleaning and fluoride treatment. Fluoride helps strengthen the enamel of children’s teeth, thus making them less cavity prone. Dental hygienists have special tools that allow them to access parts of the tooth that are hard to reach, thus not cleaned as often. Their tools help remove the tough tartar that can build up overtime if plaque remains on the teeth. Updating x-rays every twelve months and having a dentist review them is very helpful to catch cavities before the decay gets too deep.
Sealants for Teeth
Sealants are another wonderful tool used by dentists to help protect children’s teeth against cavities. Sealants cover the deep grooves present on the chewing surfaces of posterior teeth. These areas are especially susceptible to cavities and decay as food can easily get trapped and forgotten all the way in the back of the mouth. Sealants can be applied in-office by a dentist or dental hygienist. There is no down time for sealants and the child does not need to be numbed for the procedure. Most dental insurance policies cover sealants on permanent first and second molars for patients up to or around the age of sixteen.
Silver Diamine Fluoride Treatment
Silver diamine fluoride, or SDF, is a treatment that slows decay of primary teeth. If a child has a serious case of decay in their primary teeth, sometimes the best and least traumatic course of action is to utilize silver diamine fluoride. This material is applied to areas of active decay and slows the progression of the cavity. This is a helpful solution if the patient will be losing these baby teeth in the near future. This is also a good solution if a patient has decay all throughout the mouth.
Most children cannot tolerate appointments longer than an hour or two for fillings, so a child with rampant decay could be treated with silver diamine fluoride to slow the cavities’ progression until all teeth can be filled with composite. The application of silver diamine fluoride turns cavities dark, so this is not a good long-term solution and cavities must still be addressed in a timely manner.