Are children too young to worry about different tooth decay stages? Unfortunately, no.
While many parents think that tooth decay is a decidedly adult problem, the statistics say otherwise. For example, research from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that about half of U.S. children have at least one decayed tooth.
Tooth decay is a serious juvenile dental problem – it’s the most common chronic disease in children, as such, it’s important for parents to know the different stages of tooth decay. Here at The Super Dentists, unfortunately we see the devastating effects of various stages of tooth decay and how it impacts our young patients.
Knowing how to spot the stages of tooth decay, and (more importantly) avoiding tooth decay in the first place should be at the top of every child and parent’s list.
With that in mind, we thought it was a great time to explain some early warning signs of tooth decay, information about tooth decay stages, and different oral care habits you can promote to keep those cavities at bay.
How to Spot Tooth Decay Stages: What Kids Say, What Parents See
Like any other disease and some preventable problems, tooth decay in children and adults has a few telltale signs and early warning signals. Pay attention to these in order to keep your child’s oral healthcare at an optimal level.
If kids complain about the following symptoms, early stage tooth decay might already be progressing:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold beverages & food. When cavities start to form, the small pits and holes in teeth enamel expose nerve endings to food and beverages. One of the most common early warning signs of tooth decay is sharp or dull pain associated with taking in hot or cold foods & beverages. If your child complains of tooth pain when eating certain foods or consuming certain beverages, tooth decay might be the culprit.
- General toothache. A dull, chronic toothache is often a symptom of early stage tooth decay. Similar to temperature sensitivity, any toothache should be addressed immediately. Schedule an appointment with your dentist to find out what’s going on.
- Trouble focusing at school. When your child’s teeth hurt, they can’t concentrate on learning. Kids with dental disease are three times more likely to miss school and four times more likely to get a lower than average GPA. Kids who don’t like their smile may not want to draw attention to themselves or want to speak up in class.
For parents, pay attention to these possible signs of tooth decay:
- Tooth discoloration. If your child’s teeth have black or brown spots or similar discoloration, it’s time to see the dentist. These spots are often the early-early warning signs of the most common symptom of tooth decay: cavities.
- Bad breath. Talk about an in-your-face warning sign for tooth decay! Bad breath is due to excessive bacteria in the mouth cavity, and this bacteria is more prevalent during the early tooth decay stages.
- Bleeding gums. Tooth decay and gum disease (gingivitis) sometimes go hand in hand. If you detect bleeding gums, schedule a dentist appointment for a checkup.
While these are the most common symptoms of tooth decay stages, also look out for pain when biting or unpleasant taste in the mouth. Keep the lines of communication open with your child about their teeth so you can address the issue before it worsens.
Preventing Tooth Decay 101
So, what are the best ways to prevent tooth decay? Here’s a handful of things that can help – today!
For younger kids (up to 6 years old):
Brush 2-3 times daily. This one’s obvious, but it’s the most important factor for preventing early stage tooth decay. The American Dental Association recommends that children brush two times a day for two minutes and floss once a day
- Watch the bottle time. If your child still feeds from a bottle, remove the bottle when they’re sleeping. The sugars in liquids like milk, juice or formula can contribute to tooth decay, even in children as young as 1-2 years old!
For older kids (6 years and older):
- Promote a healthy diet. Everyone knows kids love sugar. But too much sugar is a major reason for high rates of tooth decay in children. Dairy products, nuts, veggies, and other snacks are a great substitute for chips, chocolate, hard candy, etc. When packing lunches, get creative with snacks so your kids won’t miss sweets.
- Floss every day. Kids should get into the habit of flossing at least once per day. Flossing helps eliminate plaque buildup and is the perfect complement to a regular brushing routine.
If you’re not sure about the current state of you child’s oral health, schedule an appointment at any of our six San Diego offices. We also offer parent dentistry services as well – stop by for a checkup while your children are at their own appointment! Thanks for visiting The Super Dentists!