How common are childhood cavities?

Posted on June 30, 2021 | Hot Topics

How common are childhood cavities?

If you’re thinking your little one might be too young to visit the dentist, just ask yourself: “does my child have teeth?”. If the answer is YES, then it’s time to make an appointment for their first visit. Your kiddo is actually at risk for tooth decay by the time he or she takes a bite of that smash cake, and likely even before that!

It’s very common for parents to think that their kids get cavities because of breaks in the nighttime routine. Maybe skipping a night or two of brushing has led to a few cavities, and while that might have some impact, there’s likely a bigger contributing factor. Many people don’t know that tooth decay is actually a bacterial disease known as “dental caries.” It’s caused by germs that spread easily within a family, and it can last a whole lifetime! It’s more common to see dental caries in young children than any other disease or illness.

So, where do cavities come from?

It all starts with a specific group of germs, or bacteria. These germs feed on sugar and in response, produce acid that ends up eating away at the structure of the teeth. The germs also create plaque that builds up on teeth, and there is even more acid in the plaque! With constant exposure to plaque and acid, the tooth structure breaks down and eventually cavities form.

When a baby is born, they don’t naturally have this bacteria. Typically the transfer of germs from parents to the baby happens in infancy. It happens unsuspectingly through saliva. Read more about the importance of saliva here. It can happen when parents share a spoon with their kiddos, or when a parent cleans off a pacifier in their own mouth – we think you get the point. And, if the parent is prone to cavities, this will likely cause their child to be as well.

Maybe this is all starting to make more sense to you. Many of us know someone who rarely visits the dentist and doesn’t necessarily practice perfect dental hygiene, yet they don’t have many cavities! If they weren’t exposed to this bacteria at a young age, then they may have dodged a bullet when it comes to tooth decay.

What can parents do?

If you or your partner have a painful dental history, then take action early! Be careful in those formative first two years to limit situations where you might transfer saliva to your child. Keep up with brushing routines, and get your kiddo to the dentist by his or her first birthday. It’s pretty common for parents to miss this pivotal detail, because not all pediatricians will bring up the importance of oral health for the child. 

If you’re concerned about your little one sitting still through his or her visit, pediatric dentists make sure the first visit is fairly short. You can learn more about what a first visit at Blossom looks like here. That first visit helps establish preventative options that will only increase the odds of a healthier mouth for your kiddo.



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