Early Childhood Tooth Decay
Early Childhood Tooth Decay is a very common problem, especially in the UK. Many changes occur in the mouth of a young child. The mouth supports important bodily functions from birth and throughout all ages, including breathing, digestion, communication, and biological/physical protection. A healthy mouth for a young child is a cornerstone of a life-long health and well-being.
Early childhood tooth decay is a form of consistent, rapidly forming tooth decay prominent in infants, toddlers and young children. Contrary to popular belief that baby’s milk teeth aren’t as important as adult formed teeth, a baby’s teeth are actually susceptible to decay as soon as they begin to form in the mouth. Decay occurs when a child’s teeth are regularly exposed to sugary substances. Leaving them susceptible to acid which then begins to erode the tooth enamel, commonly attacking the front teeth first.
ECTD can have devastating effects on a child causing them pain, infection and premature loss of very important baby teeth. Despite the many unknown negative side effects, improper care of primary teeth can cause tooth decay, baby teeth are still incredibly important because:
- Well-formed, healthy teeth help the jaw bones develop and grow correctly which aids chewing.
- Baby teeth provide adequate space for the growth of permanent adult teeth.
- Healthy baby teeth are needed for functional chewing, and therefore regular digestive functions.
- Children maintain their primary teeth for one-third of their lives so ensuring a healthy mouth is paramount for their present and future dental health. Certain baby molars often don’t fully form until the ages of 12-13.
- Primary teeth are also necessary learning and the pronunciation of speech sounds and correct language development.
- Self-esteem and confidence can suffer as a result of poor dental care, impacting a child very significantly.
Signs of ECTD
Early decay resonates as white chalk-like areas situated around the gum line. Detected early, like most health conditions, halting the decay is often successful, the damage caused can often be reversed. Established decay will gradually progress to brown spotting which will require immediate dental attention, to avoid the problems of severe decay which will inevitably result in tooth loss, if not treated.
Prevention is better than the cure, and the sooner regular dental care is routinely administered, the better. Oral care can begin during babies the first week of life by;
- Cleaning their gums using a soft, wet cloth to clean.
- Once teeth are present and comfortable enough use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean teeth.
- Avoid transferring harmful bacteria to the baby by putting infant products in adult’s mouth. E.g.: dummies.
- Never put your child to bed with a bottle or food as this exposes them to unnecessary sugars.
- Check tap water for fluoride levels. If adequate levels are not present, a fluoride supplement can be prescribed.
- Limit the number of sweet foods and be aware of sugar content in snack products.
- Serve water and milk mostly and limit juice intake.
- Always see a dentist before the age of 1 with any concerns.