It is normal to feel guilty when your child gets their first cavity. Perhaps you think that you have not done enough to instill them with good oral hygiene habits or maybe you feel bad for the pain associated with getting cavities treated. If you feel guilty for any reason, it is important to realize that guilt does not repair your child's teeth. Instead of wasting your time feeling poorly about things you cannot control, try to concentrate on what you can control to ensure your child the healthiest future possible.
Recognize You Are Not Alone
In North America, the incidence of caries in young children with primary teeth has been increasing over the past few years, to the point that 25% of children between the ages of 2-5 have had a cavity. In Canada, 57% of 6-11 year olds have had a cavity. This is a large percent of the population, so when your child gets a cavity, you should refrain from feeling like you are alone or you are the, 'worst parent in the world.'
Realize It May Not Be Your Fault
There are many factors that contribute to cavities in children. Diet, frequent snacking, drinks other than water, and a lack of good brushing and flossing skills can all lead to cavities. However, even if you are diligent about all of these things, your child may still get cavities.
A recent study found that 60% of your chances of getting a cavity are due to genetic reasons including your preference for sweets, the strength of your tooth enamel, your ability to taste, and the strength of your saliva. This means that whether your child is susceptible to cavities may be largely genetic. In addition, their primary teeth often have weaker enamel than their adult teeth, so if they will be struggling with cavities throughout life, they will almost certainly get one as a child.
Take Steps to Prevent Further Decay
Just because you cannot control all of the factors contributing to your child's oral health, does not mean you should not actively try to make a difference when you can. You should make sure your child attends regular dental checkups and gets treatments for decay as soon as it is detected.
While at home, you should brush your child's teeth twice a day and floss as soon as there is no gap between their teeth. Additionally, limit their snacking and encourage them to drink water as opposed to milk, soda, or juice. If they do snack, encourage apples and carrots rather than candy. Talk to your dentist about using a fluoridated toothpaste if the water in your area is not fluoridated and consider sealing your child's molars.
Find a Family Dentist You Can Trust
In order to make dental visits as pleasant as possible, you should find a dentist that both you and your child trust. You should look for a dentist that explains your options in language that you understand and allows you to be present for all treatments that your child must have. The dentist should work to develop a good rapport with your child and be able to explain dental hygiene in a way that your child understands. Finally, your dentist should make you and your child feel excited about caring for your teeth, not guilty about current problems you or your child are experiencing.
Recognizing that your child's cavities may not be your fault is a good start to dealing with the guilt surrounding their first cavity. However, empowering yourself to take action and educating your child about proper oral hygiene will make you feel like you have control over the situation.
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