A stress-free guide to dealing with your child’s first tooth decay

While many parents dream of their children growing into adulthood without a single cavity in sight, it is unfortunately common to undergo fillings at a young age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of children ages 5 to 9 have at least one cavity filling. With the proper support from both parents and the family dentist, a child’s first cavity filling experience can be comfortable and educational.

Symptoms of cavities in children

Older children generally notify their parents promptly of any dental pain; however, young children may have trouble communicating with parents about their specific ailments. Also, cavities do not always cause pain, so they are not diagnosed until the child’s semi-annual visit. Some symptoms of tooth decay in children include:

• Chew only on one side of the mouth

• Chalky white spots on teeth or other discoloration

• For young children, excessive crying for no apparent reason could be a sign of painful cavities.

• Your child complains that it hurts to brush or floss.

• Your child has a swollen cheek accompanied by a fever

If your child has any of the above symptoms, call your dentist right away to schedule a dental exam. In the meantime, you can give them an ice pack to hold against their cheek to relieve pain or swelling.

How to prepare your child for the filling procedure

If your dentist has diagnosed your child with his first cavity, it is important that you remain calm in front of the child. Appearing nervous or stressed will make the child believe that he must be afraid to have the cavity filled. Other tips for preparing the cavity filling are:

• Use dental language that is not intimidating, such as telling your children that they have a “bad tooth” instead of a cavity.

• Educate your children about cavities using picture books or online resources.

• Guide your child through the procedure by playing “dentist pretend” with him.

• Answer your child’s questions, but don’t talk excessively about the procedure.

When preparing a child for their first fill, it is important to be honest and relaxed. You should avoid giving too much importance to the procedure or displaying any dental fear.

Tips for preventing cavities

Your child’s first cavity filling is a wake-up call for any negative dental hygiene habits he may have acquired. Cavity prevention education for children goes a long way toward ensuring that they have healthy and strong teeth for life. Here are some tips to help prevent more cavities in your little ones:

• Limit sugary drinks like soda or fruit juices

• Clean your child’s teeth with a damp cloth or toothbrush as soon as they come out.

• Bring children for biannual dental visits before their first birthday

• Don’t leave a bottle with your baby or toddler overnight.

• Practice proper brushing and flossing habits in front of your child.

• Monitor your children’s brushing and flossing.

Going to the dentist for your child’s first cavity filling doesn’t have to be a nightmare. As long as you properly prepare your child (and yourself!) For the procedure, the appointment should be quick and uncomplicated. To prevent more cavities in the future, it may be time to sit down with your dentist and discuss changes you could make to your child’s diet or dental hygiene routine.

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