Tooth decay is the wearing down of enamel on your child's teeth, which allows acid from their saliva and the food they eat to create holes and begin to rot their teeth. This can cause pain and discomfort for your toddler, as well as longer term implications for their oral health and development. Your child's first teeth are needed for eating and speech development, but they also play an important role in the positioning of their adult teeth. Adult teeth will growth into the spaces created by baby teeth, but if your toddler loses their baby teeth early, their adult teeth can spread out into the empty spaces as they grow in. This can create overcrowding, affect their alignment and may lead to your child requiring braces or having difficulty cleaning teeth that overlap.
So, protecting your toddler's teeth from decay is good for their adult teeth and could save you the expense of an orthodontist. Here are a few tips for keeping their teeth healthy:
Assisted Oral Hygiene
Your toddler should be assisted with their oral hygiene routine as they are not yet able to thoroughly clean their own teeth. Allow them to spend some time brushing their own teeth once you have brushed them with fluoride toothpaste. If your toddler won't let you get in at all of their teeth, speak to your dentist. They may be able to give you a protective varnish that contains high levels of fluoride. The varnish is painted onto your child's teeth and works by strengthening their tooth enamel.
If your child's teeth are just starting to come through, you can use a soft gauze pad to gently wipe food residue off their gums after each meal, which helps prevent the build-up of bacteria.
In addition to avoiding sugary drinks and foods, you should discourage grazing habits. Your child should have a couple of healthy snacks between meals each day to meet their energy requirements, but frequent eating and consuming drinks that contain sugar is linked to tooth decay.
If your toddler wakes during the night, try not to give them anything to eat or drink other than water. Saliva, which should be alkaline, can protect teeth from the bacteria and acids that cause decay, but saliva production decreases during sleep.
Both vitamin D and calcium are required for strong teeth. Toddlers with a healthy diet won't necessarily need supplements, but if your child is a fussy eater or has food intolerances you should ask their GP about supplementing key nutrients. Chewable supplements that are made for children are widely available, but should only be taken with your doctor's approval.
Regular dental check-ups can enable potential problems to be spotted early, and they are also an opportunity for you to discuss any concerns with your child's dentist.