ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- It's a mistake far too many parents make because they don't know better. They overlook a crucial part of their child's morning and nighttime routine, which causes kids, as young as toddlers, to have a mouthful of cavities. In some cases, the children have as many as 15 to 18 cavities.
News 4 talked to one parent who knows it's easy to make this mistake, but learned it's even easier to prevent it. Her name is Michele Walsh. Twice a year, her four-year-old daughter, Abi, sits ever so still in her pediatric dentist's chair. And she does a pretty impressive job with her pink princess toothbrush. But Abi has to give some credit for her cavity-free smile to her older brother and all the pain he went through because their parents didn't know.
“I wasn't flossing him like should have been. I should have been flossing as soon as his molars came in,” says Walsh.
She also says her son Drew was only 3 when he needed 3 crowns and 5 fillings. At the time, Walsh was just starting as a dental assistant at Dentistry for Children and Adolescents. She had no idea an innocent mistake could lead to serious problems with her son's teeth.
“It’s all about knowing, and sometimes as a parent, you don't know. There’s so much as a parent you need to do, and it can be overwhelming,” says Walsh.
As a result, round two with Abi hasn't been so overwhelming. Walsh started taking care of Abi's teeth before she even had teeth.
“From the time they are nursing, parents should be in the habit of wiping mouth down,” says Dr. Murray Appelbaum of Dentistry for Children and Adolescents.
And Dr. Appelbaum, Abi’s pediatric dentist, says children should have their first visit when their first tooth comes in. It's probably more of an important appointment for parents. They're right there. They learn how to help their kids.
“Most of Drew’s cavities were in between the teeth, so it was a lack of flossing,” says Walsh.
Abi’s brother’s teeth problems might seem like a lot, but Dr. Appelbaum says he sees much worse.
“We have children come in with 15 to 18 cavities,” says Dr. Appelbaum.
That’s pretty good proof tooth decay is the number one chronic disease in children….more common than asthma, early childhood obesity, and diabetes. And it affects so many aspects of children's lives.
"Dental cavities can lead to systemic infection, which affects sleeping patterns, eating patterns, and their ability to concentrate at school,” says Dr. Appelbaum.
These are serious issues for kids, but there’s a simple way parents can avoid these problems. Ask Michele.
"In the morning, I let her do it herself, and at night, I brush and floss and do anti-cavity mouthwash."