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In order to keep your child's teeth shiny and healthy for a long time, it's important to introduce them not only to early brushing, but to healthy food consumption and moderation in sugar consumption as well.

It took a while, but teething pain and sleepless nights are finally over. Your baby is no longer a baby; she now has a mouthful of beautiful white pearls. You might be wondering now is there something you can do to keep the teeth as healthy and as strong as possible?

The answer is yes — although early dental caries is the most prevalent chronic disease in children as well as adults [1], and genetics can play a role in the development of tooth decay — parents can do a lot to prevent the cavities and keep the teeth healthy for a long time.

During the lifetime, humans have two sets of teeth. The first set that serves us during childhood are primary or deciduous teeth, commonly referred to as the milk or baby teeth. Usually, by the age of three, all baby teeth have erupted and are in place. [23]

Are genes to be blamed for tooth decay?

Genetics play an important part of our lives, no one can argue this! Studies have shown that the timing of primary tooth eruption is highly heritable, with estimates typically going over 80 percent, but studies have also found that we're not doomed to inherit the bacteria that cause tooth decay.

The last year's study conducted by a Murdoch Children's Research Institute has revealed that the condition of our teeth does not depend strictly on our genes — but more on our diet and oral hygiene habits. [45]

According to research, forty-two percent of children between the ages of two to 11 have had caries in their primary teeth; and in children between two and five years the prevalence is slightly under 28 percent. [6] We can draw a conclusion here that the best time to start taking care of our children’s teeth is before the mess, the sooner – the better.

Tooth decay is caused by an infection with several types of bacteria that use sugars from food to make acids that can make a cavity in the tooth. Even though some of us will inevitably inherit the genes that cause teeth to go bad early, luckily there are solutions for this. The process of tooth decay can be reversed and even prevented. [7]

Can certain foods cause early tooth decay?

Bacteria start to grow in a child's mouth before the teeth appear and even what we feed our toothless babies with can influence their oral health in the future. Whenever we consume something with sugar or starch, the bacteria use this to eat away the tooth enamel. Calcium and phosphate from our saliva and fluoride from toothpaste and water fight these bacteria by replacing minerals that we’ve lost during the bacterial attack. [7] 

How to keep kid's milk teeth strong and healthy?

  • Brush regularly — Kids will adopt the habits that we teach them from their early age. Brushing at least two times daily removes bacteria from the teeth, which slows down tooth decay. Fluoride is great against cavities, but I've decided not to use toothpaste on my daughter until she's big enough to spit the toothpaste after we're done brushing. So far, we're cleaning her teeth with a children's toothbrush moistened with water. Drinking fluoridated water can protect teeth from decay as well. [8]
  • Take your child to see a dentist — And not only when absolutely necessary. Take him for regular checkups at least once a year, more often if possible. A dentist is able to detect problems still not big enough to be visible by a non-expert, i.e. you and me. Most of us are guilty here and won't take a kid to his dental checkup once a year, but we definitely should!
  • Be mindful with sugar — A lot of teeth problems can be prevented by eating less sugar. Sugar — even the one in your child's juice — can hurt your kid's teeth and cause cavities if it sits on the teeth for too long. Putting your child to bed with a bottle shouldn't be on your teething remedies list, as it's not safe and it can cause major dental cavities. [910]

There's nothing wrong with sweets being a part of your child's diet, just don't overdo it. Occasional chocolate is fine, but make sure that you go as natural as possible and use fruit often when it comes to your kid's desserts, not just for his teeth, but for his overall health. Don't try to completely banish candy or use it as a reward after a child eats something healthy because studies have found that having a positive parental role model is a far better method to improve a kid's diet than a dietary control. [11]

The importance of baby teeth

In a survey on the importance of baby teeth,  only 39 percent of parents or caregivers were aware of all the functions of primary teeth.

When it comes to milk teeth, parents and carers are often careless because they'll eventually fall out, but the truth is that baby teeth play an important role for eating, speaking, esthetics, as well as being placeholders for permanent teeth. [12]

After you've been through the teething symptoms and pain together, it would be a shame to let the little choppers decay out of plain laziness and carelessness. Brushing regularly and consuming sugar only occasionally are the best remedies against tooth decay, and will definitely help your child to keep her milk teeth strong and healthy until they shed on their own to grow even more beautiful set of teeth.