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Help Your Young Child Avoid Becoming Part of the Current Tooth Decay Epidemic

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As a new parent, you naturally want to do everything right to keep your youngster healthy, including providing proper dental care. It's important to be aware of a trend that dentists find alarming -- an increase in cavities among preschoolers. When you understand the factors dentists believe are behind this trend, you can prevent the development of cavities in your own child's primary teeth and instill excellent oral hygiene habits.

An Epidemic of Early Childhood Tooth Decay

In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) said early childhood tooth decay is an epidemic. Some 40 percent of children have tooth decay by the time they enter kindergarten.

The US Centers for Disease Control reported in 2007 that the number of preschoolers with cavities had increased for the first time in 40 years. Dentists see more preschool children of all income levels with six or more cavities. 


Cavities in baby teeth can cause discomfort and pain. Tooth decay can compromise the health of permanent teeth growing in behind the primary teeth. 

Cavities can even lead to infections and the need for tooth extraction or root canal treatment. When primary teeth are extracted, the permanent teeth may not grow in properly. When a dentist performs extensive dental work on a very young child, general anesthesia may be necessary to keep the child from crying and moving around.

Since the problem is preventable for the most part, dentists are troubled by this trend. 

Preventing Cavities in Baby Teeth

Keep Bottles Out of the Crib

Children shouldn't fall asleep with a bottle of milk or juice in their mouth. The sugar from these beverages coats the teeth and begins deteriorating the enamel as the youngster sleeps. 

Avoid Continuous Bottle or Sippy Cup Use

Parents often find that young children stay calm and content when they suck on a bottle or use a sippy cup throughout the day. Unfortunately, the effect is similar to that of having a bottle in the crib. It's also similar to what happens when older kids, teens and adults sip sugary soft drinks all day. The risk for cavities increases substantially. Replace sugary drinks with water.

Teach Your Toddler to Rinse 

Rinsing the mouth with water after eating food or drinking sugary beverages removes substances that start causing tooth decay. Your child can learn this practice at a very young age. 

Avoid Giving out Sour and Chewy Candies 

Sour candy is acidic, which makes it tough on tooth enamel. Chewy candy, such as caramel, sticks to teeth and is difficult to remove -- even for adults. 

Use Fluoride Toothpaste

The AAPD recommends parents start brushing their child's teeth with fluoride toothpaste as soon as they appear. Continue brushing the teeth twice a day, even if the youngster puts up a fuss. Some dentists express bewilderment that parents allow their toddlers to decide whether or not their teeth should be brushed, as noted in a 2012 New York Times article.

Use only a tiny bit of paste with your baby. That way, if the baby swallows any, it will be a safe amount. When the youngster is old enough, demonstrate how to spit out the paste and how to rinse the mouth with water, just like after drinking sugary beverages or eating. 

Give Your Child Fluoridated Tap Water

Some youngsters drink bottled water and don't ever get fluoridated tap water. Dentists list this as one reason for the increase in childhood tooth decay, according to the New York Times story. 

Concluding Thoughts

Bring your baby to a family practice or pediatric dentist when he or she starts teething. By the age of one year old, a child should see a dentist regularly, advises the AAPD. The dentist will catch any problems very early, and you'll be able to make appropriate changes in the child's dental care at home. For more information, talk to a professional like