When food particles are left behind in the mouth due to inadequate brushing or flossing, bacteria in the mouth feed off of sugar and transform them into acids. This acid attacks the tooth enamel. Over time, the enamel becomes weakened and holes or cavities begin to form.
If cavities are not treated promptly, the decay can become extensive, leading to infected tooth pulp that can spread to other teeth and throughout the body. Gum disease is an infection of the gums caused by a buildup of plaque along the gumline. Plaque is also a result of inadequate oral hygiene.
Once it builds up, it can be difficult to remove and will harden into tartar which can only be removed by a dentist. The presence of tartar causes an inflammatory response in the gums which leads to red, swollen, and bleeding gums. As the disease progresses, it leads to irreversible bone loss and soft tissue damage.
Did you know that if your child uses a pacifier or sucks their thumb for too long it can cause severe long-term dental problems? Babies have a natural inclination to suck on things because it’s their way of self-soothing when they are stressed or upset. It can help them settle down, regulate their emotions, and fall asleep.
However, this behavior should not continue for too long. We recommend weaning your child off of pacifiers and thumb sucking by the time they are 4 years old but ideally by the time they turn 2. If the behavior continues until the permanent teeth come in, it can cause the following problems known as pacifier teeth:
- Gum recession
- Tooth decay
- A misaligned bite
- Changes to the roof of the mouth
- Buck teeth
- Difficulty with mastication
- Speech impediments
Teach your child how to brush their teeth properly: at a 45-degree angle with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes twice a day. Ensure that they floss their teeth every day and remember to brush their tongue as it harbors a lot of bacteria. They should only use a soft-bristle toothbrush so they don’t damage their enamel.
When it comes to the use of fluoride in children, there are different protocols for certain age groups. Before your child even forms a tooth, you should wipe their gums with a clean cloth. When your baby develops their first tooth, you can begin to use a baby toothbrush but should only use water until they are at least 18 months old.
From 18 months to 6 years old, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste can be used. This is because your child does not learn to stop swallowing the toothpaste until about 6 years old and excess fluoride intake can lead to fluorosis.