National Children’s Dental Health Month is an initiative from the American Dental Association.1 This month-long national health observance brings together healthcare providers, dental professionals, and educators to promote the importance of strong dental health in children.
In February 2022, the theme was “Sealants Make Sense.” Irene Hilton, D.D.S., chair of the ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention’s advisory committee on dental sealants, expresses that sealants are an excellent way to prevent cavities.
She states that “Sealants on permanent molars reduce the risk of caries (or cavities) by 80%.” 2 This year’s National Children’s Dental Health Monthly theme is intended to make families and caregivers aware of the cavity-prevention treatment. We’re examining issues relevant to children’s dental health in honor of this initiative.
Cavities in Children
Cavities, also known as tooth decay or caries, are common in children. Without treatment, cavities can progress to infection, tooth pain, and future problems with speaking or eating.
Good dental hygiene is a vital part of cavity prevention in children. Healthy dental habits and regular checkups with a general dentist are critical components in maintaining children’s dental health.
Bacteria and acids that occur from saliva and food cause cavities. Sugary or starchy foods – which kids love – become acidic in the mouth. The acids then break down the tooth enamel, causing cavities.
Here are some factors that increase the risk of cavities in children: 3
- Poor oral hygiene
- Higher levels of bacteria in the mouth
- High carbohydrate and sugar consumption
- Low saliva production
- Drinking water without fluoride
The signs and symptoms of cavities can vary, but they may include:
- A light brown color on the tooth
- White spots on the tooth
- An apparent hole in the tooth
- Darkening of the tooth
- Sensitivity to cold or hot foods or sweet foods
If you notice these signs or symptoms, it’s essential to bring your child to a general dentist. If they have cavities, the dentist can treat them with a filling.
You should address cavities as soon as possible, as they can lead to tooth decay or life-threatening infections. If your child experiences increased pain, face or neck swelling, fever, trouble eating, or pus draining from the tooth, seek immediate emergency dental care.
How to Prevent Cavities in Children
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 20% of children between the ages of 5 and 11 have at least one untreated cavity. 4 Cavities are common in children, but you can prevent them by taking specific steps:
- Schedule regular visits to the dentist. Children should see a general dentist starting at six months after their first tooth appears or before they reach one year of age. Children should see a dentist at least twice a year.
- Teach good oral hygiene. Children will learn a proper oral hygiene routine if they develop these habits early. Children under two years of age shouldn’t use fluoride unless approved by a dentist.
- Feed your children healthy foods that are good for dental health, such as calcium-rich foods and foods high in vitamin C and protein, like fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
- Avoid sugar-rich foods, candies, and drinks.
Dental Sealants for Children
Sealants are a simple way to protect children’s teeth. They act as barriers to cavity-prone areas, such as the chewing surfaces of the rear teeth. Primary “baby” teeth and permanent “adult” teeth can have sealants.
Even with excellent oral hygiene, toothbrushes have limitations. Brushing your child’s teeth can remove food particles and plaque from the surfaces, but it can’t get into the depressions to remove food particles and plaque. Sealants protect these cavity-prone areas by providing a seal that keeps particles from getting in.5
Sealants for children are quick and straightforward to apply. The sealant is a plastic resin bond painted onto the tooth enamel, which hardens and protects the depressions and grooves of the chewing surfaces of the rear teeth. Dental sealants protect the enamel from food particles, acid, and plaque.
If a sealant stays intact, the tooth’s surface is protected from decay. With proper care, sealants can last several years before they need to be reapplied.
Protect Children’s Dental Health with Preventative Dentistry in Webster, NY
Preventative dental care is a huge part of protecting children’s dental health. At Empire Dental Care, we’re committed to children’s oral health. We can help children develop lifelong healthy oral care habits to maintain a happy and healthy smile. Contact us today to schedule an appointment! 585-671-1650