It’s crucial to encourage children to develop healthy dental care habits. That means teaching them how to brush their teeth and floss and supporting them as they take those all-important first steps to caring for their teeth on their own – long before permanent teeth arrive.
A number of factors contribute to childhood cavities:
- Lapses in brushing when dental hygiene habits aren’t formed yet (often simply forgetting)
- Mistakes in brushing technique, such as not cleaning the gumline or hard-to-reach molars
- Sugary sweets, which provide plenty of fuel for the bacteria that create plaque on teeth
- In rare cases, resistance to brushing related to discomfort caused by sodium lauryl sulfate
Many parents aren’t sure what to do when they learn their child has a cavity. Although the tooth will eventually fall out and be replaced, it still shouldn’t be ignored. Here’s how to help your child flourish:
1. Double-Check Their Brushing Habits
The location of the cavity tells you a lot about what might have led to the problem. If it’s difficult to reach with a toothbrush, review brushing techniques with your child to be sure they know a good, less frustrating way to do it. Ensure they are brushing both sides of teeth, all the way in the back, and up to the gumline. Sometimes, a shorter toothbrush helps in getting up to the gums and rear molars.
2. Educate Them About Their Teeth
Younger children may not understand what a cavity it is and why it matters. Talk to them about why going to the dentist isn’t scary! It’s wise to talk to them and explain not only how to brush, but why everyone should brush. As kids get older, they’re more likely to maintain good habits when they know the reason why.
3. Remember: For Kids, Good is Better than Perfect
Adults should brush at least twice daily and after each meal. For young kids, however, just getting started is the key: For example, brushing before bed is vital, and brushing after breakfast is more important than brushing first thing in the morning. You can use a calendar with gold stars to help kids track progress toward those adult brushing habits!
When a child has a cavity, the most valuable thing to do is see your family dentist. That way, your child can get a full dental cleaning to ward off future cavities and, if necessary, a filling to protect the damaged tooth.