A study revealed that severe cavities in kids had an adverse effect on family life, particularly leading to heightened parental stress and guilt, disruption of routine family activities, sleep disturbances, and increased absenteeism from work.
Regarding our kid's dental health, the thought of cavities can send shivers down our spines. The mere imagination of our little ones experiencing discomfort and undergoing dental treatments can evoke anxiety and concern.
That's why proper dental care plays a vital role in their early years, as it sets the foundation for a lifetime of healthy smiles.
So, if you're looking for a proactive approach to preventing the spread of dental caries in your kids, we got you covered.
In this article, we'll discuss what tooth decay is and the risks associated with it. We'll also explore the significance of pediatric dental care in addressing cavities and promoting children's oral health.
What are dental caries?
Dental caries or cavities happen when the enamel and dentine of our teeth slowly start to decay or break down.
This decay is caused by bacteria in our mouth converting the sugars we consume from food and drinks (we call them free sugars) into acid. So basically, when these bacteria feed on the sugars we eat, they produce acid that eats away at our teeth, leading to cavities.
Free sugars include any sugars added to foods by the manufacturer, cook, or consumer. This includes sugars naturally found in honey, syrups, and fruit juices.
The World Health Organization considers dental caries or tooth decay the most common noncommunicable disease worldwide. It means it is a health condition that affects many individuals globally.
According to a 2022 Global Oral Health Status Report, an estimated 2 billion people worldwide suffer from caries of permanent teeth, and 514 million children suffer from caries of primary teeth.
Who is most at risk of tooth decay?
Dental caries affect all age groups, starting with the eruption of the first teeth (deciduous teeth/primary dentition) and increasing in prevalence until late adulthood, then remaining at high levels until older age.
Children under the age of six may experience a condition known as early childhood caries, where dental decay appears at an early stage. In some cases, this decay can rapidly worsen, leading to severe damage or loss of the primary teeth.
Also, children who experience early childhood caries are at a much higher risk of facing ongoing dental problems as they get older.
Several risk factors can contribute to the development of cavities in children. Here are some of the most significant ones:
- Poor oral hygiene
- High sugar intake
- Infrequent dental visits and dental anxiety
- Lack of fluoride
- Early childhood feeding habits (Prolonged or frequent exposure to sugary liquids in baby bottles)
- Dry mouth
- Socioeconomic factors
- Poor nutrition
- Oral bacteria
Risk Associated with Cavities in Children
When left untreated, cavities can keep getting bigger and start causing problems. Eventually, it might reach the sensitive nerve inside the tooth or even lead to a painful dental abscess.
The speed at which a cavity gets worse can be different for everyone. It might take just five to six months for some people, while for others, it could be five to six years.
How long a cavity can go without treatment varies depending on different factors like the size and location of decay, a person's diet, and lifestyle.
On the other hand, some of the key risks associated with cavities in children include:
Tooth pain and discomfort
Cavities can cause toothache and discomfort, making it difficult for children to eat, sleep, concentrate, and participate in daily activities.
Toothache can be a sharp, persistent pain that feels like a deep ache in the tooth. It can make the affected tooth sensitive to temperature changes, pressure, and biting, causing discomfort and sometimes swelling around the affected area.
Infection and abscesses
Tooth decay can progress and lead to tooth infections or abscesses, which can be painful and require more extensive dental treatment.
A dental abscess may appear as a swollen, red, and painful area around the affected tooth. The swelling can range from a small bump to a larger, more pronounced area, and there might be visible pus or a pimple-like lesion on the gum near the tooth. This can be accompanied by throbbing pain, discomfort while chewing, and a foul taste or odor in the mouth.
Difficulty with eating and nutrition
Cavities can affect a child's ability to chew food properly, leading to dietary limitations and potential nutritional deficiencies. This can impact their overall health and growth.
Speech and language development issues
The stomatognathic system, responsible for essential functions like breathing, sucking, chewing, and speech production (phono articulation), can be significantly affected by cavities.
These important functions are connected to the health of the dental arch. When young children lose their front teeth early due to dental caries, it can result in harmful oral habits and speech development changes.
This can impact the child's overall quality of life, including their appearance, ability to eat properly, speech development, dental arch integrity, and permanent teeth growth.
Impact on permanent teeth
A study revealed that the prevalence of dental caries in primary and permanent teeth in children worldwide was high, specifically in continents such as Africa.
Primary teeth play an important role in guiding the eruption and alignment of permanent teeth. Cavities in primary teeth, if left untreated, can affect the positioning and health of permanent teeth, potentially requiring orthodontic treatment in the future.
Emotional and social implications of tooth decay
Colgate carried out a survey involving over 20,000 parents from 12 different countries to shed light on the actual consequences of tooth decay.
Out of the 1,800 surveyed parents in the US, Colgate discovered that 62% of children experience cavities, which result in considerable physical, emotional, social, and economic hardships.
Based on the survey, Colgate's findings indicate that children facing oral health problems experience emotions such as embarrassment (30%), worry (30%), sadness (28%), and anxiety (24%).
Additionally, children with cavities express feeling restricted in their ability to smile openly (27%) and face difficulties in concentration (20%).
How to Promote Good Oral Hygiene Practices and Proper Nutrition
Parents play a vital role in promoting good oral hygiene practices at home. First, it is important to teach children the right brushing techniques.
They should use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and brush in gentle, circular motions to clean all surfaces of their teeth and tongue. Encourage them to brush their teeth twice daily for at least two minutes.
Flossing is another essential practice. Children should start flossing as soon as two adjacent teeth touch each other. Parents can demonstrate the proper flossing technique and assist their children until they can do it independently.
Remember also that a balanced diet plays a crucial role in oral health. Parents should urge their children to consume nutritious foods while limiting sugary snacks and beverages.
Parents should also explain the importance of fluoride in preventing tooth decay and strengthening tooth enamel. Fluoride can be obtained from various sources, such as fluoridated water, toothpaste, and professional fluoride treatments.
In addition to brushing, flossing, and fluoride, certain vitamins and minerals are beneficial for maintaining healthy and strong teeth.
Calcium is essential for strong teeth and bones, while vitamin D aids in the absorption and utilization of calcium, promoting the mineralization of teeth and bones.
Vitamin C is important for healthy gums and collagen production, while vitamin A contributes to the formation and maintenance of healthy teeth and gums.
Phosphorus works with calcium to build and repair tooth enamel, and vitamin K supports gum health and proper blood clotting. Lastly, magnesium is involved in the formation of tooth enamel and helps maintain oral health.
The Role of Pediatric Dental Care in Preventing Cavities
Establishing good oral hygiene habits early on is crucial in preventing cavities. Thus, the role pediatric dental care and your kid’s first dental visit play cannot be taken for granted.
Regular dental check-ups allow dentists to monitor a child's oral health, detect cavities early, and provide necessary preventive measures.
Pediatric dentists are specially trained to work with children and create a positive dental experience. They understand the unique dental needs of children and provide appropriate guidance and treatments to ensure optimal oral health.
Consult a Pediatric Dentist in Culver City
The detrimental effects of cavities in kids can significantly impact their dental health and overall development.
It is crucial to seek a reputable pediatric dentist to ensure optimal care.
If you're from Culver City, Marina Del Rey, or nearby areas, you can visit Culver City Dentist United Dental Care. Act now by scheduling an appointment with our qualified pediatric dentist.
Your child with the invaluable gift of a healthy and joyful smile. Investing in their oral health today sets them up for a lifetime of dental wellness.