The most common childhood disease is tooth decay. Tooth decay is classified as cavities that affect the structural health of the enamel and underlying tooth surfaces like the dentin and root. Other common names for tooth decay in children are “baby bottle caries” or “early childhood caries.” Baby teeth are essential, and cavities can lead to unnecessary pain, infection, early tooth loss and expense. Baby teeth act as the placeholders for adult teeth and may cause shifting and alignment issues with future adult teeth if lost early to cavities.
Causes of Tooth Decay
Cavities are caused by the production of acids resulting from acids. This occurs from the consumption of sugars. Sugars can be found in various foods and drinks, even in bread, dairy products and salad dressing. Listed below are the leading causes of childhood caries:
- Putting your baby to bed with a bottle of milk – milk has natural sugars and will be bathing your baby’s teeth all night, exposing the teeth to sugars.
- Not brushing your baby’s teeth before bed – brushing before bed ensures that most bacteria accumulation is removed.
- Dipping soother in something sweet – a soother dipped in something sweet, like honey, can cause cavities.
- High sugar diet – reducing overall sugars in the diet is key.
- Sticky, chewy, gummy sweets such as candy and dried fruit – these types foods get stuck and expose the teeth to sugars for longer.
- Lack of fluoride – fluoride is a key ingredient in the prevention of cavities. It strengthens the enamel and prevents the penetration of acids.
- Lack of proper oral hygiene – brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day, once teeth contact. Be sure to help your child with oral hygiene until 6-8 years old.
Signs & Symptoms of Tooth Decay
A cavity may appear as a chipped or stained part of a tooth. This can happen between two teeth or at the gum line. The stain may be white, brown or black, depending on the severity of the cavity. A child may also be in pain, appear to be teething or have a fever associated with a large cavity that has caused an infection.
Treatment of Tooth Decay
Treatment of the cavity depends on the size and location. Very small cavities can sometimes be left, treated with strong fluoride and monitored. Moderate-sized cavities will be fixed with simple fillings, and larger cavities may require crowns, root canal treatments and even tooth extraction. Treatment will always be less invasive, less involved and less costly when the cavity is diagnosed early. Taking your child to the dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings is vital, beginning as early as two years old.
If you have any questions about early childhood tooth decay or believe your child may have a cavity, we encourage you to contact us today to book an appointment.