"It can also affect their behaviour in school," says Dr. Arthur Worth. "Tooth decay is the second most common cause of school absenteeism and is five times more common than asthma in children."
Cavities hurt, even when they are in baby teeth, Worth says.
The number of kids suffering with serious tooth decay has been on the rise in recent years, affecting 28 per cent of all kids, says Dr. Sarah Hulland, pediatric dentist with the Canadian Dental Association.
Eating more often in the day and drinking less water with fluoride are two factors contributing to the increase, she says.
So what can parents do to keep their kids' teeth and mouths healthy? Below we’ve pulled together some tips for parents based upon fact sheets from the Canadian Dental Association and the Ontario Dental Association.
First, the Facts:
- Early childhood decay affects 6 to 10 percent of all preschoolers
- Tooth decay is a rapidly progressing disease, often rotting the two front teeth completely to the gum line within a year
- At age 5, nearly 11 percent of kids had two or more teeth with wide-open, untreated cavities
- 12 percent of all kids suffer dental neglect and require immediate care
Clean Teeth Tips:
- Young children depend on their parents to clean their teeth properly
- Children under the age of three need adults to brush their teeth for them
- Children aged 3-6 should be helped to brush their teeth by a grown-up
- When children can write (not print) their own name, they are ready to brush their teeth on their own, however, parents should still check to see they do a good job
- Change your child’s toothbrush every one to three months and after every illness
- Let your child watch you brushing your teeth to help them learn how and to teach the importance of dental health
- Sugary drinks and snacks are a major culprit in rising rates of child tooth decay, so help your child to eat more healthy snacks and drink tap water (which contains fluoride)
How to Brush Teeth:
When your child is old enough to start trying to do it on his own, guide him along with these steps:
- Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth, pointing the bristles where the gums and teeth meet.
- Use gentle circles, do not scrub, and be sure to clean every surface of every tooth. Be sure not to hurt the gums by brushing too hard.
- Also be sure to use only a bit of toothpaste (with fluoride after the age of 3 or before if your dentist sees a need) and make sure the child spits all of it out.
Using dental floss is also necessary to get teeth properly clean. Here’s how:
- Take a piece of tooth floss about the length of your child’s arm.
- Wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about two inches of floss between your hands.
- Use your index fingers to guide the floss.
- Slide the floss between the teeth and wrap it into a “C” shape. It should wrap around the base of the tooth where tooth meets gum.
- Wipe the tooth with the floss from bottom to top 2 to 3 times or more until squeaky clean.
- Move to a new part of the floss as you move from tooth to tooth.
- All of your child’s baby teeth come by the time your child is two or three years old.
- Permanent teeth begin to come in by age 6 or 7 and continue to come right up to age 21.
- Most kids lose all of their baby teeth by the age of 12.
- For more information, including primary and permanent tooth charts, check out the Canadian Dental Association’s dental development page online.
- When your child loses his or her first tooth, they can go online to get a Smile Certificate from the CDA here.
Summarized facts above reprinted with permission from the Ontario Dental Association and Your Oral Health.ca, 2013, and the Canadian Dental Association, 2013.