With so much sugary food appealing to our children these days, it can sometimes be hard to prevent our children from eating foods which can damage their teeth. Combine this with the difficulty you can often face in getting your child to brush their teeth, and you soon find yourself dealing with toothache and cavities. Preventing tooth decay in milk teeth is just as important as it is in adult teeth, so teaching children how to care for their teeth at a young age is essential.


Preventing Tooth Decay – The Importance of Milk Teeth

Even though we lose our milk teeth as children, it does not mean that they are less important than our adult teeth. In fact, milk teeth prepare a strong and healthy environment in your child’s mouth for their future set of teeth to grow into. Losing or removing milk teeth too early can result in overcrowding of the adult teeth. If milk teeth are not taken care of, permanent damage can be done to the gums, leading the way for problems in the future. Milk teeth also have other uses: not only do they help children chew, but they also aid speech development.

By teaching your child how to look after their milk teeth, you are paving the way for good oral hygiene once their second set of teeth come through. Getting them into the habit of brushing their teeth regularly, and teaching them which foods can do the most damage, means they will develop good habits for the future.


What Causes Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is caused by a build up of plaque on the teeth, leading to holes in the teeth, gum disease, or dental abscesses (an infection in the teeth or gums often requiring antibiotic or root canal treatment). Although tooth decay may not always cause pain, you can develop toothache, tooth sensitivity, discolouration of the teeth, bad breath, or an unpleasant taste in the mouth.


Looking After Your Child’s Teeth

There are a number of simple steps you can take in preventing tooth decay in your child’s teeth:

Step 1: Teach your child about tooth-brushing – You can guide your child by example, letting them see how you brush your own teeth, and how often. When brushing their teeth, children may want to try to do it themselves, but you can help by guiding their hand, or by allowing them to see what they are doing in a mirror. Children often respond more positively if an activity is made as fun as possible, so you could use a timer, or sing songs to them about tooth-brushing which pass the required 2 minutes of brushing.

Step 2: Introduce your child to the dentist – Since dental care for children is free on the NHS, there is no harm in introducing your child to the dentist early on. That way they can learn the importance of looking after their teeth, and be encouraged by positive feedback from the dentist.

Step 3: Fluoride Varnish – From the age of 3, it may be that your dentist offers fluoride varnish as part of a child’s dental care. The varnish is painted onto a child’s teeth by a dentist or other oral hygiene professional. Fluoride works by strengthening tooth enamel, therefore preventing tooth decay.

Step 4: Be aware of your child’s diet – make sure you are aware of the amount of sugar in your child’s food and drinks. Sugary and starchy food encourage the growth of acid-producing bacteria – it is this bacteria which causes tooth decay, rather than the sugar itself. Try to choose sugar-free options when possible, and always avoid sugary or starchy foods within an hour of bedtime.


Dealing With Tooth Decay

If you think your child may be suffering with tooth decay, you can make an appointment with your dentist. East Berkshire Out of Hours service also provides out of hours dental assistance if you feel your child needs to be seen more urgently. You can contact an out of hours dental service by calling NHS Direct on 111. NHS Direct can advise you on the next steps to take and directly transfer you to an emergency dental service in your area.