Many parents believe that as long as their child brushes and flosses regularly, cavities should not be a concern. While brushing and flossing are certainly the core ingredients in a good cavity prevention routine, they are not the only steps you can take to keep your child's teeth in great health. Here's a look at four lesser-known ways to reduce your child's risk of cavities, from the time the first teeth erupt until it's time to head to college.
Don't let your child fall asleep with a bottle.
Milk and juice contain sugars, and when these sugars sit on the teeth for long periods of time, they allow the bacteria that cause tooth decay to breed rapidly. Letting your child fall asleep with a bottle in his or her mouth is a sure-fire way to cause baby bottle tooth decay, which is the formation of extensive cavities in an infant or toddler's baby teeth. While you may think that the baby teeth aren't important because they'll soon fall out, they are actually essential for guiding the adult teeth into place. Keep them as healthy as possible by giving your child a dry pacifier or a bottle with a small amount of water rather than a milk-filled bottle at bedtime.
Avoid sippy cups.
Sippy cups put the liquids which your child drinks in direct contract with the teeth, which allows sugar and bacteria to linger on the front teeth and cause cavities. Wean your child off of sippy cups and onto an adult-style cup as soon as possible to protect his or her front teeth.
Give your child fluoridated water.
Most municipal water supplies are fortified with fluoride, a mineral that's essential for building strong tooth enamel. Since fluoride has been added to the water over the last 65 years, tooth decay has decreased drastically. If your child drinks tap water (either filtered or non-filtered), he or she is likely getting enough fluoride to protect his or her teeth from decay. However, some parents give their children bottled water rather than tap water. Not all bottled water contains fluoride. If you prefer to give your child bottled water, make sure the bottle specifically states that fluoride has been added to it.
Talk to your dentist about fluoride treatments.
If the water in your area does not contain a lot of fluoride, or if your dentist suspects that your child's tooth enamel is not as strong as it could be, he or she may administer a fluoride treatment to give your child's teeth a potent dose of this essential mineral. Fluoride treatments are entirely painless and they only take a few minutes. They're excellent for hardening your child's tooth enamel and reducing the risk of cavities.
Have sealants applied to your child's molars.
The back molars feature deep grooves in their chewing surfaces. Food and bacteria can become caught in these grooves, leading to cavities. A great way to prevent cavities in these back molars, especially in children who are not thorough when brushing their teeth, is with dental sealants.
Dental sealants are painless for your dentist to apply. They are made from a resin material, which hardens after your dentist paints it onto the tooth's surface. Sealants form a barrier between the tooth and food in the mouth, so that tooth decay cannot occur. Your child's first set of adult molars will erupt around age 6, and the second set will erupt around age 12. Most dentists prefer to apply sealants as soon as these teeth erupt, in order to offer the most effective protection from cavities.
Your child's baby teeth play an important role in positioning the adult teeth, which have to last for the rest of your child's life. Take action when your child is young by following the above steps, and he or she will be off to a great start when it comes to dental health.
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