Dear Dr. Denise,
I just learned that my five-year-old has six cavities in his baby teeth. Why do I need to fill these cavities if his baby teeth are just going to fall out anyway? Also, what could I have done to prevent this?
Dear Concerned Mom,
This is a fantastic question that I hear quite often. Many parents want to know why it is important to fix cavities in baby teeth. Baby teeth are important for several obvious reasons, such as chewing food, facilitating speech, and maintaining appearance. There are also two other issues that I am concerned about as a pediatric dentist. First, untreated cavities grow larger, cause discomfort, and are at risk of infection. Second, since infected teeth are often extracted, this may lead to orthodontic problems down the road because baby teeth preserve space in the jaws for the adult teeth that will come. For these reasons, it is best to treat cavities in baby teeth as quickly as possible after they are diagnosed.
Your curiosity about what could have been done to prevent these cavities raises another essential issue. Every parent can do three simple things to promote their children’s oral health: maintain oral hygiene, provide a healthy diet, and schedule regular pediatric dental visits.
Oral hygiene is an important part of overall hygiene. The best way to incorporate these behaviors is to make them part of your child’s daily routine. Be sure to include tooth brushing and flossing as part of the nighttime and morning activities. There are many kid-friendly products available to help you. Feel free to explore what works best for you and your child. However, make sure that the toothpaste has fluoride and the toothbrush has soft bristles. If you need more guidance, feel free to make an appointment or visit my website.
To help prevent tooth decay, offer your child a healthy diet by following these three quick tips. First, limit your child’s consumption of candy, especially sucking candies (e.g., lollipops) and sticky candy (e.g., fruit rolls). After he eats any candy, have your child brush his teeth. Second, limit your child’s consumption of sugary drinks, such as soda, juices, and chocolate/strawberry milk, to one cup per day. Third, after he brushes his teeth in the evening, only give your child water.
Pediatric dental visits are an important part of maintaining your child’s overall health. Just as you take your child to the pediatrician for regular checkups, you should take your child to the pediatric dentist on a regular basis. The first visit should be when the first tooth appears or by age 1, whichever comes first. Afterwards, a checkup is recommended every six months to prevent cavities and other dental problems.
Following this advice will help your child develop and maintain a warm, healthy smile. v
© 2013 Denise Cohen-Kronfeld, DMD
Dr. Denise Cohen is a board-certified pediatric dentist with a practice in Woodmere. Visit her on the web at www.drdenisecohen.com or call her at 516-459-8828. If you have a dental question for Dr. Denise, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.