No matter how old you are, cavities are painful and can cause serious illnesses if they’re left untreated. Even in baby teeth, cavities can result in permanent damage to the gums. To avoid getting cavities, children need to learn how to brush them correctly at a young age, to ensure a lifetime of good rather than damaging habits as they grow older.
Fact #1: Sugar is a major cause of cavities. But children love candy. So what can you do? Limit the amount your child takes in – if you can. You’ll get the additional reward of having a calmer, more focused child, as excess sugar promotes hyperactivity, weight-gain, and a feeling of sluggishness and bad temper as the ‘sugar rush’ subsides. Limiting sugar can also help children learn to eat healthier. Substitute fresh sweet fruit for hard candy, for example. You child will soon learn to love them, especially if they see that you love eating them and consider them a treat. Make sure you follow your own example and do not eat chocolate or ice-cream in front of a child, or they will want some too.
Fact #2: If your child has irregular teeth, it’s a good idea to look into braces. Cavities can form on surfaces that are hard to reach with a brush because they’re blocked by misaligned teeth, or when they’re impacted (trapped in the gum). Braces these days doesn’t have to mean head-gear and ugly metal on the teeth. Today’s orthodontics can provide clear braces with minimal wires if you child is concerned about teasing or appearance.
Fact #3: Cavities are scary and any work done on the teeth can be painful, even with modern injections. Visiting a dentist is probably the scariest thing imaginable for a child, and for most adults too. Remind your kids that taking care of their teeth means that they’ll get in and out of the dentist faster and that they won’t need to have any painful procedures done. This isn’t using fear to motivate them; it’s just being honest about the consequences of cavities. One bad experience at the dentist may actually put your child off candies for a long time, if you make sure to stress the link to them in a friendly, factual way. So if they do get a cavity, make sure you make the most of the opportunity to stress to them that candy caused this dentist visit!
Cavities need to be noticed before they get out of control. Teach your kids to examine their teeth when they brush. Give older children a small dentist mirror (you can get them for a few dollars from any drugstore) and show them how to check their top teeth for any little black spots – which are the first sign of cavities. Or make it a game and give younger children some plaque-revealing dye (sold in dentists), which magically ‘reveals’ the unbrushed areas. Make sure to supervise them when they do this to make sure they do not swallow the dye.
Flossing is also very important to fighting cavities, although it requires great care so as not to damage young gums. Remember to teach them to do it early and that it’s an important way to protect their teeth – and keep them out of the dentist’s chair.