This brief Q & A with dentist professionals answers questions regarding cavities in children and when it’s time to find a dentist.
Q: Since they fall out after just a few years, are my child’s baby teeth really all that important?
A: Yes, they actually are! Infant teeth set the stage for adult oral health. And though temporary, these first teeth help a child learn to speak and eat properly. They are essentially placeholders for their emerging permanent counterparts.
Q: What causes cavities in young children?
A: One major contributing factor to early tooth decay is prolonged exposure to sugar-containing drinks. The use of pacifiers may also perpetuate the problem. Parents who suspect that their children are susceptible to cavities should find a dentist experienced in pediatric oral care.
Q: Does bacteria play a role in childhood dental caries?
A: Tooth decay is often caused by bacteria that is transferred from the mother or father to the child. For instance, a mother feeding her toddler may instinctively take a bite to convince the child to do the same. She then puts the spoon, which has now been exposed to her saliva, into the child’s mouth, unknowingly introducing foreign bacteria. Many parents who choose to utilize a pacifier for their children will benefit if they find a dentist who is willing to help the child wean from the habit by their preschool years.
Q: How is childhood tooth decay prevented?
A: Supervised brushing is the best method to help prevent cavities in children. Avoid filling bottles or soft nib sippy cups with anything other than formula, breast milk, or milk. Remove the bottle as soon as the child has finished drinking. Children should drink from a regular cup by 12 to 18 months to eliminate prolonged exposure to milk-filled bottles. Healthy eating habits should be established early and sugar intake limited.