When it comes to caring for your child, you probably focus on their overall health, their safety, their well-being, and improving their intellect and social skills. How much thought do you put into their oral health? It’s okay if you reluctantly said, “not much.” If you did, you’re not alone. Many parents, especially those with babies and toddlers don’t think twice about the gum and soon-to-be teeth health of their new little bundles of joy.
Being a new parent is challenging and it is understandable that your little one’s oral health isn’t a priority. After all, how could you think about scheduling your baby’s first dental appointment when he or she doesn’t have any teeth in yet?
Unless you’re a dental professional, you likely don’t have an accurate view of a child’s teeth development. You may know that at some point your child will grow all his or her baby teeth and at some point, all those teeth will fall out and be replaced with permanent teeth. Knowing this, you may think it is okay if your child gets a cavity or two on their baby teeth. After all, the teeth will fall out anyway. Your child will have well-established oral hygiene routines down by the time the adult, permanent teeth come in.
Children’s cavities though are things to take seriously. Pediatric tooth decay can lead to additional dental health issues in the future, lower a child’s quality of life and self-confidence, and even potential serious overall health problems and death from infections. The most common complications from childhood cavities and therefore, reasons why parents should take their child’s cavities seriously include:
Tooth Decay of Permanent Teeth
Tooth decay of the baby teeth doesn’t always stay isolated in those teeth. If left untreated, the cavity can grow into the root of teeth and infiltrate the permanent teeth coming in underneath.
Abnormal Growth of Permanent Teeth
Permanent teeth that inherit the decay of the corresponding baby teeth may grow crooked or misshapen. When this occurs, there is an increased risk of further, additional tooth decay and gum disease, and a misaligned bite that can lead to low self-consciousness and self-esteem. It is likely potentially expensive, long-term orthodontic work will be needed.
Death or Serious Infection
Untreated cavities can lead to abscessed teeth. These teeth are very painful and are often surrounded by germ-filled pus. When an abscessed tooth is not dealt with right away, the germs and bacteria from the infection and pus can get into the bloodstream, causing life-threatening health conditions.
Difficulty Eating and Speaking Clearly
Besides causing a misaligned bite, cavities can make a child’s teeth hurt and be uncomfortable. Both the immediate and future misalignment of teeth and bite can make it more difficult and painful for a child to bite, chew, breath, and speak properly.
Potentially Serious Heath Concerns Later in Life
One’s oral health has been linked to one’s overall health. Cavities, while likely less of a health threat to children can lead to serious health conditions when they become adults. Heart disease and infections of the heart have been linked to cavities.
Cavities, like other dental health issues, are best treated when caught early. In fact, prevention is the best course of action. Avoiding cavities altogether is the best and cheapest route.
To prevent cavities, or to slow the progress and reverse the damage of cavities, it is important to make your child’s oral health a priority. Parents can help their children avoid cavities by scheduling their first dental appointment by the age of one, instill proper, regular at-home oral hygiene habits, watch their child’s diet, encourage their children to drink plenty of water, and have regular dental appointments scheduled every six months.