How to Prevent and Treat Tooth Decay in Children
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), 42% of children between the ages of 2 to 11 have tooth decay in their baby teeth, and this number has been steadily rising over the last 20 years. Moreover, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry reports that dental disease is the number 1 chronic childhood illness in America.
What is accounting for the surge in childhood tooth decay and dental disease? A lot of blame gets directed at poor dental hygiene and bacteria in the mouth, but it is only a small piece of the puzzle. Biological dentists believe it can be a direct result of poor nutrition and a lack of essential vitamins needed for healthy teeth and bone development.
The Fallout of the Modern Western Diet
In his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Weston Price detailed his travels studying the diets of various cultures around the world, including indigenous people who ate very little to no processed foods. He was astonished to discover that these indigenous groups rarely showed any signs of tooth decay. He reasoned that, as our society moved away from our traditional diets comprised of healthy, whole foods and adopted the current Western diet full of grains and processed foods, we took on nutritional deficiencies.
He concluded that our modern Western diet (particularly flour, sugar and processed vegetable fats) is stripped away of the essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need, and is directly attributing to the rise in dental decay and other health problems.
Today’s Children are at Risk for Cavities
It’s evident we live in a sugar-saturated, heavily-processed foods society when nearly half of all children have cavities in their baby teeth. And it should come as no surprise considering many kids are regularly given juice, dried fruit, crackers, bread, chips, cereal and other sugary or processed snacks.
But even if your children eat nutritious, healthy whole foods and practice good dental hygiene, problems, such as cavities in baby teeth, can still arise. And if you have a family history of dental issues, your children may be even more susceptible to tooth decay. That’s way it is so important to schedule regular dental checkups from an early age (after their first tooth erupts or no later than the first birthday).
Early Detection is Key
The good news is that tooth decay in young children can be halted, or even prevented, especially when caught early. A dentist can proactively look after their developing teeth and intervene early if they see problems emerging. If tooth decay is detected early, there’s a good chance it can be treated non-invasively with dietary changes and technologies such as air abrasion or ozone therapy, instead of traditional “drilling and filling.”
And, in the event your child has a cavity that must be filled, it’s important to choose a pediatric biological dentist. Biological dentists have a variety of safe, durable, non-toxic biocompatible materials at their disposal. There is absolutely no need to put mercury or other metal fillings in your child’s mouth. And, just as with adults, a biological dentist can test for compatibility in advance, ensuring the material used isn’t likely to trigger a negative response.
But They’re Baby Teeth. Why Fill Them at All?
You may be wondering why we bother to fill cavities in baby teeth at all, considering they will eventually fall out. If left untreated, baby teeth may break, rot or fall out prematurely. Leaving empty spaces in the mouth can allow other teeth to shift and create orthodontic problems down the road.
Moreover, infection in a baby tooth can spread to the nerve and affect the development of the underlying adult tooth. It can also be painful for the child and affect eating and sleeping.
When Should I Schedule My Baby’s First Dental Check-Up?
Be proactive! One of the best ways to keep your child’s mouth healthy is to detect potential issues early on, before they become serious.
According to guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), you should bring your child to the dentist after her first tooth erupts or when she turns a year old, whichever comes first. But it’s never too late to schedule their first appointment, even if your child is older. Bring them in as soon as you can!
How to Prevent or Halt Your Kid’s Tooth Decay
Since we now know most tooth decay is caused by a lack of essential vitamins in the diet, you can improve your child’s dental health with a few dietary and lifestyle changes.
- Eat Nutritious, Unprocessed Whole Foods. Eat a diet rich in whole foods and eliminate most processed, convenience foods. When possible, choose a wide variety of fresh, local and/or organic meats and vegetables. Eating a diet of full of nutrient-dense whole foods will ensure your children are getting the vitamins and minerals essential for healthy bone and teeth development. A diet of healthy whole foods can often limit or even prevent cavities from forming.
- Limit Sugar. Although there’s nothing wrong with indulging in the occasional treat, eating too many sweets – even natural sugars – can lead to tooth decay. When needed, replace sugar with natural sweeteners such as maple syrup, local honey and dates. Steer clear of fruit juices, as they are a highly-concentrated source of sugar. Instead, offer your child water or milk. If you need to wean your child from juice, try diluting it with water.
- Eat Fat-Soluble Vitamins. Fat soluble vitamins (Vitamin A, D, E and K) help develop strong and healthy teeth and aid in the remineralization process that helps repair enamel before a cavity forms. Common sources of fat-soluble vitamins include cod liver oil, grass-fed dairy and meat, eggs, seafood, wild salmon, organ meats and dark, leafy green vegetables.
- Eat Healthy Fats. Replace poly-unsaturated vegetable oils and trans fats with traditional fats and oils such as organic butter, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, lard, etc.
- Visit the Dentist Early. As mentioned earlier, one of the best ways to keep your child’s mouth healthy and cavity-free is to detect potential issues early on, before they become serious. Bring your child to the dentist after their first tooth emerges or when they turn one year old, whichever is sooner.
- Remember to Brush. It’s important to teach your child good dental hygiene from an early age and set a good example yourself. Have them brush their teeth a minimum of twice per day, once in the morning and once in the evening before bed. Consult with your dentist about the correct way to brush and floss their teeth.