Prevention and Intervention Are Key 

to Your Children's Healthy Smiles

By Andrea M. Taliento, DMD and Nicole Hanson, RDH

Prevention of Tooth Decay and Cavities

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood, but tooth decay is preventable. By scheduling regular dental health check-ups and promoting a regular routine of home oral health care when they are young, children can avoid tooth decay as they age.

Tooth decay in children often has few symptoms before it has developed into a significant cavity. Cavities can cause pain and discomfort, infection, and potential tooth loss if left untreated. 

Here are the top three factors that contribute to tooth decay and cavities in children:

Poor Daily Home Care Habits

To maintain children’s oral health and the health of their teeth and gums, the American Dental Association recommends brushing for two minutes twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste, flossing at least once a day, and using a fluoride mouthwash nightly before bed.


Sugary Foods and Drinks

At home and at school, children are often snacking and consuming sugary and carbonated beverages throughout the day rather than at set mealtimes. This habit can lead to the buildup of the harmful bacteria and acid attacks resulting in tooth decay. You can help protect your children’s teeth by limiting snacking at home and packing their lunches with healthy, tooth-friendly foods, like cut-up vegetables, cheese, and a water bottle.

Unintended Bacteria Transmission

The spread of bacteria that causes tooth decay and cavities is not only caused by poor dental care habits and sugary foods. As easily transmitted as the common cold, bacteria can unintentionally be transmitted from child to child, or from parent to child. To prevent unwanted bacteria transmission, children should avoid sharing items that they put in their mouths like cups, bottles, pacifiers, and eating utensils, particularly spoons.

Of equal importance to the prevention of tooth decay is bringing your children to the dentist for regular dental check-ups! The American Dental Association recommends bringing children in for a first dental visit after their first tooth comes in or by their first birthday, at the latest. Starting dental visits early helps your children feel comfortable in a dental office environment and sets them up for a lifetime of
healthy smiles!

Interventions for Children’s Airway Development Issues
When thinking about the oral health of your children, a less obvious, but equally important thing to consider is the development and growth of their faces. Poor facial muscle habits in children, like low tongue posture, incorrect swallowing patterns, and mouth-breathing can compromise airway development and lead to breathing obstructions.

Mouth-breathing and poor facial development caused by enlarged adenoids and tonsils, as well as lip-ties or tongue-ties, can lead to other serious health issues in children including higher risk of dental decay, periodontal disease, bad breath, and acidic wear on teeth; poor or fragmented sleep patterns; ADHD and other behavioral issues; increased severity of asthma; chronic sinus and/ or ear infections; and even pediatric high blood pressure. 

Consideration of the position of the tongue in the mouth is also important. The tongue, acting as “nature’s retainer,” supports a child’s upper arch and allows for enough room so that all their teeth to come in as they should and where they should. A correctly positioned tongue also maintains facial bone development as your child ages and allows enough room for the nose to properly develop without deviations or obstructions. Incorrect facial bone development in children has been shown to lead to dental malocclusion and obstructive sleep apnea, which can lead to serious health problems later in life.

When caught early, poor facial muscle habits, including mouth-breathing and airway issues in children are highly treatable. While some conditions may require the expertise of a surgeon, such as the removal of adenoids and tonsils, and in some cases, orthographic (jaw) surgery, your dentist is able to address some of these issues from the comfort of the dental chair. 

Your dentist routinely screens your children for lip-ties or tongue-ties, which can prevent your children from having proper tongue placement in the mouth. They can resolve lip-ties and tongue-ties with a simple and painless procedure right in their office. Orthodontic treatment (i.e. braces, retainers, etc) to treat teeth misalignments and palate expansions to encourage proper skeletal development, can lead to better facial structure outcomes as your child grows and prevent troublesome airway issues.

Taking preventive measures to avoid tooth decay and cavities is an important way to protect the health of your children’s teeth and gums. Understanding the importance of proper facial development and learning about the interventions which can correct issues early means you can help your children prevent more serious disease later in life. Working with your dental health care team, you can set your child up for a lifetime of happy, healthy smiles!

Dr. Andrea Taliento is a Maine native and resides in the Greater Portland area with her husband and two little girls. She owns and maintains a state of the art private practice focused on comprehensive and family dentistry with a focus on airway prosthodontics. Dr. Taliento is also dedicated to continuing education in order to always be a high-level provider of current techniques, new developments, and technologies in dentistry.

Nicole Hanson began her dental career in 2020 as a Registered Dental Hygienist. She completed a bachelor's degree cum laude from the University of Maine Augusta in Dental Hygiene. She is passionate about educating her patients about oral health prevention and encouraging healthy habits. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her friends, family, her fiance Cameron and her dog Ellie.