Tackling Childhood Tooth Decay — Fillings, Sealants or Other?
Mommy wars and parent shaming are real — everyone has a different way of doing things, and this can often cause conflict and ruffle feathers. The common link between all parents is wanting to do what’s best for their children, especially when it comes to their medical and dental needs.
As infants grow into toddlers, preschoolers and grade schoolers, their dental care needs increase, too. One thing all parents worry about at one time or another is the best way to prevent decay. There are a number of solutions to help combat tooth decay and cavities in children, but which is truly the best?
New Study Results
The results of a three-year, multi-university study are in: active prevention is the best way of dealing with childhood tooth decay. According to the FiCTION study, the results of which were published in the November 26, 2019, issue of The Journal of Dental Research, the best way to deal with childhood tooth decay is to stop it before it starts. Although this nugget of wisdom is conventionally held as true based on common sense, medical science now backs it as fact.
Study findings concluded that, once decay sets in and treatment is started, there’s not much difference in the outcome. Most children will experience pain and infection regardless. So by default, the best way to treat your child’s teeth for cavities is to make sure they don’t happen in the first place.
How to Prevent Childhood Cavities
Preventing childhood cavities starts with regular dental checkups, starting about six months after infants get their first tooth and continuing at least twice a year. Checkups allow dentists to spot problems before they start and offer preventative treatments. For example, children who lack adequately strong enamel may require fluoride treatments to escape cavities. Starting and maintaining a regular dental visit schedule also ensures that your child’s teeth come in properly and on time — and that they can get early treatment for any spacing issues or abscessed teeth.
Regular checkups also allow dental staff to adequately clean your child’s teeth — something that brushing and flossing alone cannot do. It’s easy for young children to miss spots while brushing or to have trouble flossing because of the small size of their mouths. Dental cleanings give your child a fresh, clean slate to work with.
In addition to making and keeping regular dental appointments for your child, you can help prevent cavities by getting your kids into the habit of taking care of their teeth at home. Kids should brush twice a day for at least two minutes at a time, using a toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association.
If your child isn’t old enough to avoid swallowing toothpaste, skip those containing fluoride. Once they can spit their toothpaste out, switch to a formula containing the mineral. Flossing, too, should happen at least twice a day. Mouthwashes and rinses are optional but can help — and your dentist may recommend an additional rinse or wash containing fluoride if your drinking water lacks it.
A variety of brush types, styles and sizes exist — while some research suggests that electric toothbrushes may get children’s teeth cleaner, it’s most important to pick one that your child likes and will use regularly. If possible, let your kids help pick out their toothbrushes. Similarly, devices that help kids floss (like GumChucks or branded, shaped single-use flossers) are available to get kids interested in flossing and make it easier.
Treating Cavities — What’s Best?
Even with religiously kept appointments and adequate home care, some children will develop cavities. Whether it’s due to sneaking sweet, sugary candy, genetic factors or spacing issues that can lead to a buildup of plaque and bacteria between the teeth, cavities that form must be treated to avoid pain and infection.
There are two main ways of dealing with tooth decay in children — drilling it out of the tooth and filling it to prevent further damage, or sealing it under a crown or filling without drilling it to stop its spread to surrounding teeth.
Research suggests that there’s no marked difference in outcomes between children whose decayed teeth are drilled and filled or sealed — the incidence of complications and future cavities was about the same.
Still, every child is different, and your child’s teeth may have factors that make one option or the other better for their unique situation. So it’s important to work with your dentist to choose the treatment option that’s best for your child.
How We Can Help
The office of Drs. Krieger and Hur loves to get kids excited about dental health and hygiene. Our staff is friendly and patient — we want to make sure your kids are happy to come back after their first appointment. We employ a pain-free dentistry approach to our practice, and part of that is reducing the anxiety that often surrounds a trip to the dentist.
Whether you’re booking baby’s first dental appointment, just moved to the area and need a new family dentist or are seeking treatment for a cavity, we’re honored to have you choose us. To book a spot, simply call our office at (201) 560-0606. You can also reach out to us by email by clicking here, and someone will be in touch to confirm your appointment.
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