Children And Tooth Decay: Children’s Habits That Could Be Damaging

Children and tooth decay are prevalent in Australia. In Australia, 61% of indigenous children and 41% of non-indigenous children have tooth decay in their baby teeth.

Shocking, right?

Tooth decay occurs when carbohydrate-rich foods come in contact with the teeth and the mouth isn’t properly cleaned. A common cause of early childhood tooth decay is parents allowing a baby or child to go to sleep with a bottle of juice, milk, or formula. This bathes the teeth in a sugary mix which attracts bacteria and deposits plaque on and around the teeth.

What Is Tooth Decay?

What are the early signs of childhood tooth decay? Look at the tooth surface:

  • Chalky teeth – white spots are the first sign of tooth enamel breaking down
  • Light brown spots – the tooth decay process has begun
  • Dark brown to black spots – the cavity is well advanced

Additional signs of children’s tooth decay can include pain around the affected tooth, as well as sensitivity to hot or cold food and drink.

Read on to learn what can cause childhood tooth decay, and how to prevent it.

Common Children’s Habits That Could Be Damaging

Certain common habits amongst children younger than age 10 can lead to risk factors for tooth damage. That’s why it’s essential to make good dental hygiene a habit as soon as a baby’s first tooth appears. Remember, you are your child’s role model, so make sure you take care of your own teeth!

Here are some of the most common causes of childhood dental cavities in Australian children:

Children and Tooth Decay: Sweets Between Meals

Almost everyone enjoys a Tim Tam or a Violet Crumble now and then. But don’t let it become your child’s everyday habit. Sweets should be special treats and not an everyday snack. Little Charlie comes home from school and is hungry, so he grabs an Anzac biscuit, and runs outside to play. Then he gets thirsty, runs inside and slugs down a big glass of lemonade. On the surface, neither of these things seem that bad. Anzac biscuits are made of oats and sometimes nuts, and lemonade is healthier than a can of soda. But both are high in sugar and carbohydrates. If Charlie doesn’t remember to brush his teeth (and he probably won’t until bedtime), his teeth will be in an environment ripe for encouraging bacterial growth. Eating healthy foods is an important factor in good oral health.

Children and Tooth Decay: Sweet Drinks Before Bed

There’s nothing wrong with your child drinking a glass of water before bed. But there is a problem if the drink of choice is soft drinks, cordials, chocolate milk, or other sweet drinks as is the choice of many Australian children. Once your child has brushed her teeth well with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, a no drinking rule should be enforced. Especially after she gets her permanent teeth. Drinking after brushing will flush away the fluoride, removing its decay-preventing properties. 

Preventing Childhood Tooth Decay in Babies and Toddlers

Here are some quick tips to help you prevent decay in your young child or children’s teeth.

Start brushing your child’s gums, gum line and mouth twice a day as soon as the first tooth has emerged. Use a soft bristle brush and a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste.

One of the most effective ways to prevent tooth decay in babies and toddlers is by controlling the number of times they eat in a day and what they eat. This is due to the environment of the mouth becoming acidic after food is ingested. Without allowing the environment of the mouth – pH level – to neutralise, tooth damage occurs as it prospers in acidic environments. The tooth enamel and dentine gets damaged which over time results in a tooth decay and a cavity forming. The most ideal number of times to eat in a day for children is 5 times a day and ensure they drink water in between meals. 

The reason this is ideal is because the mouth should be given the opportunity to return to a neutral pH level as acidic levels allow bacteria growth. If children continuously snack in between meals, the mouth will continuously remain acidic and tooth damage will likely happen.

It is also ideal to go on 6 monthly check and clean appointments at the dentist so that they can prevent any further damage to the teeth. Our dentists are able to determine your dental habits by examining your teeth – this is extremely beneficial as it spots your bad dental habits. 

Don’t ignore back teeth when brushing and flossing. Molars have more nooks and crannies where food and bacteria can be trapped. This is especially important as your child begins getting her adult teeth.

Bottom Line

Good oral hygiene habits begin early. Common childhood habits, such as consuming too much sweet food and beverages in between meals, heighten a child’s risk of developing children’s tooth decay. Start improving your child’s oral health today. If you’re seeking a good pediatric dentist, search no more. Contact Whitehorse Dental to book your child’s appointment today.