When a child is in pain and there is nothing you can do, it's a terrible feeling. And when our phone rang around 3:00 AM with a plea for help from a concerned grandparent, I knew what they were going through.
Large Cavities in a 7-Year-Old Are NOT Uncommon
Turns out that the patient -- a 7-year-old boy -- was having a crippling toothache. Shooting pain that was causing him to cry out in agony. After a few phone calls and a trip in to see us at On Demand Dentist we found out why: two large cavities in the molars.
This is not uncommon at all. Kids get cavities. Adults don't always know until it's too late and the teeth really hurt. That was the case this time.
In this case, the parents told us that the child eats a lot of sweets and its a constant battle to brush his teeth. Hey, we understand -- that's pretty much every 7-year-old out there. We aren't here to judge. We are here to help people feel better and to help prevent it from happening again.
Rather than chastise the parents, we explained some simple steps that may make life a little easier and reduce the risk of a repeat tooth ache. Namely: try to limit cracker and other snacking. Constant snacking makes the mouth more acidic and more likely to develop cavities. When you couple that with irregular brushing and lots of sweets, you are asking for trouble. So if your child is getting cavities, start by reducing the all-day snacking that most kids do. Also have him or her drink water (not juice) after and with any snacks, as it will help wash some of the snacks away before they start eating the tooth enamel.
So, back to the case at hand. The child was a trooper. The teeth were baby teeth that weren't going to be with him much longer, so we extracted both teeth. He was hopping around excitedly when it was over with, eager to tell his brother how awesome he was when he got home.
Great parents and a great kid. You never want to watch or hear a child go through a toothache -- it's absolute agony that you can do so little to help. But they did the right thing by calling and taking quick action. Their son feels much better, they have an action plan to keep him from suffering through this again, and he has a war story to brag about with his friends.
Tips for Parents to Prevent Cavities in Children:
- Limit snacking. Crackers, fruit, candy... it all adds up to a very acidic mouth if you're snacking all the time. All the snacking means you need to brush more frequently, which isn't always easy for a child.
- Drink water with snacks. The water will help wash away some of the acidity, limiting it's damage. Make a game of it by having your child swish and spit after snacks.
- Let your child brush if he or she wants to, but make sure you help, too. Most kids like to brush their own teeth more than they like having a parent do it, so let them have at it. But as a compromise, you need to help them out with those hard-to-reach molars.
- Nothing but water after a night-time brushing. Milk, juice, a late-night snack... it's all bad after that nighttime brush. When you sleep you produce less saliva. Saliva is your body's mechanism for self-cleaning the mouth, so once you sleep, you don't have that last layer of defense. If you eat or drink after brushing your teeth at night, the cavity-causing bacteria will have a hey-day.
- Whatever you do, don't make oral hygiene miserable for your children. Your setting them up for taking good care of their teeth in the future. Do your best to make it fun and let them have a good experience.