kids-dentalCavities can occur at any age. Even baby teeth can develop cavities, which are permanently damaged areas in the hard surface of the teeth that develop into tiny openings or holes. If left untreated, cavities can grow larger and affect deeper layers of the teeth, leading to severe toothache, infection and even tooth loss.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) is urging parents to take steps to ensure their children’s teeth are healthy and cavity-free.

“Cavities and tooth decay are very common health problems throughout the world,” said ISDH Oral Health Director James Miller, D.D.S., M.S.D., Ph.D. “They are especially common among children, teenagers and older adults. Learning to take care of teeth at an early age is critical in maintaining good oral health throughout life.”

Parents should clean their baby’s teeth as soon as they come in with a clean, soft cloth or a baby’s toothbrush. This should be done once a day, preferably just before bedtime.

Parents can help protect their baby’s teeth by feeding the infant healthy foods that are low in sugar. Parents should also avoid putting their baby to bed with a bottle. Milk, formula, juice or other sugar-containing liquids given in bedtime bottles stay on the teeth while babies sleep. This feeds bacteria and causes damage known as baby bottle tooth decay. Similar damage can occur when toddlers wander around drinking from sippy cups filled with these beverages.

“If your child is going to carry around a bottle or cup, fill it with water,” Miller said.

An estimated 51 percent of all third-graders in Indiana have experienced some tooth decay.

Parent should take their child to the dentist by the child’s first birthday and begin teaching him how to brush his teeth at age 2. Regular dental visits and good brushing and flossing habits are a child’s best protection against cavities and tooth decay.

To learn more about how to keep your teeth healthy at any age, visit ISDH’s website