Dr. Ray Alavanja
Dr. Robert Pieters

Hours of Operation:
Monday- Thursday 7:00am- 8:00pm
Friday 8:00am - 5:00pm

Request an Appointment

The Reasons So Many Kids Get Cavities

For some parents, keeping their children cavity-free is a real struggle. In fact, it may seem like every time they visit the dentist, their child has a new cavity. Can you relate?

As it turns out, tooth decay is one of the most common diseases affecting children in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — even more common than asthma and allergies. The good news is that tooth decay in kids is also very preventable with the right approach to at-home care and regular visits to the dentist.

Common Causes of Childhood Decay

Cavities, or dental caries, are damaged areas of a child’s hard tooth surface that develop into tiny openings or holes. They are caused by plaque — the sticky, colorless film of bacteria that attacks the tooth enamel and gums using the sugars from foods, drinks and saliva in your child’s mouth. Because bacteria are naturally present in the mouth, a child can get a cavity as soon as his or her first tooth appears.

Why are children so susceptible to decay? Researchers believe that a combination of factors can increase the risk for cavities in kids, including:

  • Poor oral hygiene habits: If children are not properly brushing their teeth twice a day, sugars and plaque left on the teeth will continue to attack the enamel and can quickly lead to decay.
  • Unhealthy diet: Sugar is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to childhood tooth decay. Consuming too much juice, candies and other treats over time can wreak havoc on kids’ teeth.
  • Sharing foods: The same bacteria that cause cavities can be transferred within families. That means when parents and siblings share drinks and foods, cavity-causing germs in the mouth can spread from one person to another and increase the risk for decay.
  • Insufficient fluoride: Fluoride is an important mineral that helps protect teeth against decay. A child who doesn’t get enough fluoride in his or her diet is more susceptible to cavities.
  • Delayed visits to the dentist: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents take their child to the dentist when his or her first tooth erupts or no later than his or her first birthday. When parents postpone their child’s appointments to the dentist, emerging dental problems may go unnoticed, leading to more serious, painful oral health issues down the road.

Preventing Cavities

Uncontrollable factors such as genetics and inadequate saliva flow can increase a child’s risk for tooth decay. In many cases, however, the risk for cavities can be significantly reduced with a combination of diligent oral hygiene, regular visits to a dentist, and a well-balanced diet.

  • Begin cleaning your baby’s mouth, even before his or her first tooth appears. Use a clean, damp washcloth to wipe your baby’s gums after each feeding. Once the first tooth appears, you can begin using a small, wet toothbrush.
  • Never put your infant or child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup of milk or juice, as this increases the amount of time that teeth are exposed to decay-causing sugars.
  • Establish routine, healthy oral hygiene habits at home. Assist very young children with brushing every morning and night. Older children can brush on their own, but may need supervision to ensure they are cleaning properly. Brush together to model proper technique, and make brushing fun by playing a game or music.
  • Promote healthy, nutritious eating habits at home and on the go. This includes a diet that is rich in raw vegetables, fresh fruits, lean protein and complex carbohydrates. Limit your child’s sugar intake — including soda, juice and candy — especially those that are sticky in nature. Starchy foods, such as pretzels and cereal also promote decay and should be eaten in moderation.
  • Encourage kids to eat and drink in one sitting instead of grazing on food throughout the day. Constant snacking continuously exposes teeth to damaging acids. Prompt brushing after meals and rinsing with water in between meals can help reduce decay.
  • Use fluoride as an effective way to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce decay. Adequate fluoride from your water source and dentist-recommended fluoride toothpaste can even reverse signs of early tooth decay in kids.
  • Scheduling routine dental visits for your child is one of the best ways to combat childhood decay and promote a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. Starting appointments at an early age help create a positive attitude about the dentist while educating parents about how to best care for tiny teeth.

Tooth decay can cause chronic pain, lead to tooth loss, and interfere with a child’s eating and sleeping habits. The good news, however, is that childhood cavities are preventable.

It’s not too late to introduce good oral health habits into your family’s daily preventive care routine! In the meantime, for those who live in northwest Indiana, schedule your child’s next appointment with our office. At Schererville Family Dentistry, we are committed to providing your child with quality, personalized pediatric dental care in a fun, nurturing environment.

Schererville Family Dentistry

1050 Caroline Ave
Schererville, IN 46375
Call or Text Us: 219.322.3232