What causes early childhood dental caries in children?
Prolonged exposure to milk and other sugary liquids such as juice can cause tooth decay in children. This is known as early childhood caries (ECC), bottle-mouth syndrome, or baby bottle tooth decay. It has remained an increasing problem world-wide, though it varies based on socioeconomic status and ethnicity. The decay is most often seen in the front upper teeth but can affect all of the child’s teeth. The most common cause is children who take a bottle to bed with them at nap or bedtime. This allows the milk sugars to sit on their teeth for long periods of time and cause rotting.
Many parents think because the child’s baby teeth are only temporary, it does not matter if they develop cavities. The problem is that baby teeth affect children’s speech and chewing abilities and if left untreated can cause infections. This can have a large impact on their adult teeth as well, leading to damaged or crooked permanent teeth. Chalky white spots and soft brown/black spots are indicative of tooth decay and require intervention with a dental specialist.
How to implement good oral hygiene:
– Wipe your baby’s gums with a washcloth after feedings
– When your child gets their first tooth, begin bruising regularly without toothpaste or with fluoride-free pastes
– Once they have all their baby teeth, begin regular flossing if any teeth touch together
– Discontinue nighttime breastfeeding after 6 months if baby has teeth
– Ensure your local water supply provides fluoride which strengthens teeth enamel
– Schedule dentist visits to get cleanings every 6 months starting when your child is 1 or 2 years of age (depending on what age the dentist will see)
Studies have shown that tooth decay and dental caries are the single most common chronic childhood disease worldwide. It’s never too late to start taking care of your children’s teeth and teaching them how to do the same!