Getting kids to brush their teeth can feel like an uphill battle sometimes. There are so many things you’ve got to get done in a day and having to brush your little one’s teeth or, for older kids, nagging them to go and brush their teeth, can be a step too far on some days! And toothbrushing is only one part of fighting tooth decay in kids.
Then there’s “eating healthy.” Don’t get me started… There’s lunchbox shaming, hidden sugars everywhere, slick advertising from fast food and snack companies. And that’s saying nothing about what your child won’t eat now – even though they were happily eating it just last week! Grandma might even sneak in an ice-cream here and there!
And lurking, in the background, is the possibility that if you aren’t 100% perfect, your kids will develop tooth decay… Then they’ll need a filling, a stainless steel crown, possibly even general anaesthetic with a specialist paediatric dentist.
Well, not if we have anything to do with it! We’re going to give you 5 ways to fight tooth decay and you’ll be equipped with the best advice and tools to keep your kids teeth healthy!
So why do they still suffer from tooth decay? It can be so disheartening and soul crushing but I do want to say this, there is hope. You’re not alone in this and there’s things you can do to help tackle this problem. These are not instant fixes and will require persistence but over time, I promise you, your efforts will pay off.
Here are 5 ways to fight tooth decay in children:
1. Upgrade to adult toothpaste
When your child is able to master the action of spitting, try swapping out their 3+ or 6+ children’s toothpaste for an adult one. Adult toothpastes contain the optimal amount of fluoride needed to prevent tooth decay and this higher concentration doesn’t exist in children’s toothpaste formulation.
You only need a pea size amount and it’s extremely important that they don’t rinse the mouth out with water after brushing – just spit the excess, hence why mastering the ability to spit is vital for this tip. By not rinsing, this allows for some left over toothpaste to coat their teeth and gives the fluoride the opportunity to penetrate into the enamel and strengthen it.
Sometimes, we may even need to consider a medicated toothpaste, which is higher strength yet. However, medicated toothpastes are only to be used under the supervision of your dentist.
2. Savacol Alcohol Free Mouth Rinse
This mouth rinse contains chlorhexidine, which is an antibacterial that helps target the germs in the mouth that cause tooth decay. Use for one week out of every month. If it is used daily for more than two weeks, it will begin to stain the teeth and studies have shown that it is just as effective if used for one week every month.
I like to set it up in the calendar on my phone as a reminder for the first week of every month so that you don’t forget to use it. The whole family can use it, but again, just make sure the kids don’t swallow it!
3. Professional fluoride varnish application three to four times per year
A child who is at a higher risk of suffering tooth decay will have different needs when it comes to their ongoing dental care. There’s strong evidence to suggest that kids who fall in that category should visit the dentist every 3 to 4 months so that a professional fluoride varnish can be applied. This is one of the most effective and powerful tools in our arsenal at preventing tooth decay.
If a child doesn’t have a history of suffering from tooth decay, 6 monthly check-ups are recommended. This is because tooth decay can develop very quickly and progress very swiftly in children so seeing the dentist regularly will allow for early intervention.
4. Consider sealants where appropriate
Think of sealants like gap fillers.
Sealants are recommended when the grooves on permanent molars in children have really deep grooves/fissures. The first adult molars usually come into the mouth between the ages of 6 to 7 and if the grooves are very deep, they’ll be a lot harder to keep clean!
These grooves encourage bacteria to gather and cause tooth decay – they’re the #1 spot for tooth decay! As a result, we recommend sealants as a protective measure and if placed properly, they can last for decades and prevent up to 95% of tooth decay development!
Sealants are extremely affordable, not invasive and are a great investment in a child’s long-term oral health.
5. Dietary habits
It’s not about the amount of sugar kids eat. It’s how often they eat it.
When we eat, whether it’s fruit, bread or chocolate, the germs in our mouth turn sugar into acid. The acid then weakens the enamel and as a result, tooth decay forms. Knowing how tooth decay starts is important because it means we can address the problem at the root cause. The germs in the mouth cannot cause tooth decay without being fed and the more often that they are fed, the more likely more tooth decay is to develop.
As such, the habit of snacking is one of the biggest contributing factors to tooth decay. If your child is a grazer or is constantly snacking, changing the way they eat can significantly lower their risk for tooth decay.
We recommend limiting sugary foods (whether it be natural sugars like in fruits or added sugars in biscuits and crackers) to main meal times. A little treat after dinner is ok because saliva continues to be produced in large amounts and that will help to flush out sugars and neutralise acids.
For snacking in between meals, choose foods like cheese, milk, nuts or fibrous vegetables like celery or carrot sticks. Not only is dairy high in calcium and phosphorus which helps strengthen teeth and bones, it also helps neutralise the pH in the mouth which is important in reducing your kids’ risk for tooth decay.
The final word on preventing tooth decay in kids
These 5 tips are not commonly shared or talked about which means if you haven’t tried them, the battle is not over. You will win this war against tooth decay!
Finally, if your child does develop tooth decay, it’s not the end of the world. Modern dentistry can be completely comfortable and pain free – but you’ll need the right dentist to take care of things. And, you’ll need the right dentist to help you to prevent more tooth decay from developing in the future!
Call us or book online if you have any concerns about your child’s teeth because we love taking care of kids at Method Dental!
Jasmine Ooi BPharm
with Dr. Grant McGrath BDSc
Co-Founder, Principal Dentist