What's the Best Way to Protect My Child from Tooth Decay?

Q: What is baby bottle tooth decay?

Baby bottle tooth decay, also known as early childhood caries, or baby bottle caries, is a dental condition in which there is significant decay in a child's teeth. It often occurs when a young child naps or goes to bed at night with a bottle filled with a sugary liquid, such as milk or juice. When bacteria on the teeth come into contact with sugar from the liquids, the bacteria form acids that attack teeth enamel. Decay is commonly found in the upper front teeth. While each child may experience decay differently, signs may include white spots or brown areas on the teeth.
Q: How can I prevent baby bottle tooth decay?

- Do not allow your child to go to bed with a bottle filled with anything but water.
- Wean your child from the bottle between 12 and 14 months of age.
- Follow the appropriate oral health routine for your child's age. Wipe your baby's gums after each feeding. When your child's first tooth appears, it's time to begin brushing. Clean and massage gums in areas that remain toothless, and begin flossing when all the baby teeth have erupted, usually by age 2 or 2.5.
- If you live in an area without fluoridated water, talk with your child's dentist about fluoride supplementation.
- Take your child to the dentist within six months of the eruption of his first tooth and no later than your child's first birthday.
How can I protect my child from cavities?

Taking charge of your child's oral health in the early years is worth the effort.

The good news is that regular brushing with a fluoride containing tooth paste and regular dental visits can help your children stay cavity-free.

Dental sealants can also protect vulnerable areas, particularly on the chewing surfaces of your back teeth. Some people also have pits on other teeth where food or bacteria can collect, so those teeth are sometimes sealed as well.

Decay in permanent teeth is falling among children, teens, and adults. Dental sealants - thin, plastic coatings that guard teeth from cavities - play a part in that decrease, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC found that 38 percent of children and teens ages 12 to 19 have dental sealants.

As soon as children's permanent teeth come in, they should get sealants. Children's first permanent molars usually come between ages 5 and 7, and their second permanent molars come in between ages 11 and 14
How can I encourage my child to keep their mouth healthy?

- Let children brush under your supervision and assistance until they can brush by themselves-generally around age 7.
- Encourage children to chew sugarless gum and stay away from sticky candy.
- If your child plays sports, make sure he or she always wears a mouth guard.

For more information on protecting your child from tooth decay, visit DeltaDentalNC.com.

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