Causes of Childhood Cavities and How to Stop Them

As a parent, you are naturally concerned about your child’s health and well-being. New parents, in particular, face a steep learning curve. Not only do you have to learn how to feed, bathe, change, and generally care for infants, but you also have to try to figure out what they need any time they cry, whimper, or whine.

It’s a terrifying, exhausting, and yet somehow truly magical and rewarding experience. As they grow into childhood, you’ll become more confident in your ability to care for your child, but you’ll still have to learn a lot if you want to keep them safe and healthy, especially as they start to crawl, walk, and climb.

Then there is the prospect of learning to care for your toddler’s new teeth. You probably know that baby teeth will eventually fall out, to be replaced by adult teeth. However, this doesn’t mean you can neglect your child’s dental health in the meantime. Healthy baby teeth are a precursor to healthy adult teeth.

Of course, what you’re likely to discover is that kids aren’t always keen on dental care. While there are ways to make brushing and flossing fun (by singing songs or creating a reward system for good behavior, for example), you might still struggle to get your child to practice proper oral hygiene. Even with stellar daily care, cavities could still be a problem.

What causes childhood cavities and what can you do to prevent them and ensure good oral health? Here’s what you need to know about childhood cavities and how to stop them.

Dental Caries When tooth decay occurs in small children, the condition is sometimes called dental caries. Not all children suffer from dental caries, which is basically tooth decay and cavities caused by specific bacteria – some kids just have cavities. However, dental caries is fairly common, and dentists that specialize in working with children will check for signs and symptoms, especially if a cavity is found.

Sugary Drinks One of the worst culprits when it comes to childhood cavities (or adult cavities, for that matter) is sugar, and especially sugary drinks like soda, juices, or plain or chocolate milk. The problem for small kids is that they suck on bottles, and eventually, sippy cups, which not only means that the beverages they consume have contact with all of their teeth, but also that the liquid can sometimes linger in the mouth, prolonging contact.

Sugar can cling to the surface of teeth and surrounding tissue, providing ideal conditions for bacteria (like the type that causes dental caries) to flourish. The acids created by bacteria erode enamel, paving the way for infection and tooth decay.

This is especially harmful when children are allowed to fall asleep with a bottle, and it can lead to a condition commonly referred to as baby bottle tooth decay. This situation allows fluids to linger in a baby’s or toddler’s mouth for hours, significantly increasing the potential for tooth decay.

Frequent Snacking Constant snacking is another potential issue where oral health is concerned. After eating, it takes time for saliva to rinse away food and bacteria and regain normal pH balance. If kids are snacking on Cheerios, cheese, fruit, and other things every hour or so, there’s little chance for the mouth to use its natural cleaning mechanism.

This, in turn, can create conditions in which bacteria are able to grow and seriously harm developing teeth, eventually leading to the formation of cavities. As an adult, you might have three meals a day and one or two snacks. If you practice good oral hygiene you at least take time to brush after meals, and possibly floss and rinse with mouthwash. Does your child do this? Probably not.

Prevention Knowledge is power, and now that you know the dangers of sugary drinks and frequent snacking, you can find ways to curb these harmful behaviors. You can do more to prevent childhood cavities, though.

Call a dentist to find out how to start caring for your infant’s oral health before teeth even start coming in. You’ll learn what to do at home and when to schedule your first visit. Eventually you’ll learn how to brush and floss your child’s teeth, as well as how and when to teach toddlers these skills. Regular dental visits for check-up and cleaning are wise, as well, so create an appropriate schedule with your child’s dentist.

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