Tuesday, April 17th, 2018
Early childhood tooth decay can occur in infants as a result of ‘early childhood caries’ (ECC). This term is also referred to as baby bottle tooth decay, baby bottle caries or bottle rot.
What are the causes of Childhood tooth decay?
ECC is an infective process inducted by the transmission of oral bacteria from mother to infant and is a very common bacterial infection. The primary culprit for ECC is a group of bacteria called Streptococcus mutans. If that bacteria has been transferred (which can be transferred from the use of shared utensils or from the mother cleaning the baby’s pacifier with her mouth), it can easily multiply.
When an infant is allowed to nourish on a nursing bottle for the night, the saliva flow tends to be reduced causing the milk to congregate around the baby teeth allowing the natural sugar in the milk to convert to an acid, which results in the enamel of the baby’s teeth to be eaten away. This may also occur in toddlers who constantly sip away on sweet drinks during the day, such as soft drinks or fruit juices. The most commonly affected teeth are the upper front teeth (also known as the incisors) as the four lower teeth are usually protected by the tongue and saliva.
What are some of the signs of early childhood tooth decay?
Sometimes detecting ECC can be difficult, depending on how advanced the tooth decay has progressed. The signs of ECC are not always easy to detect, such as a dull white band on the tooth surface close to the gum line. If a yellow, black or brown band is seen close to the gum line, it is a good indication that the tooth has progressed to decaying phase. Teeth that look like black and brownish stumps have advanced caries. The upper four incisors are usually the ones involved, while the lower ones are usually not affected and sometimes the back teeth could possibly be affected
Importance of early tooth detection of tooth caries
In most scenarios unfortunately, early tooth caries is not noticed until a child, is approximately 20 months of age. By this time, many children may not some significant dental work that could possibly require hospitalization to have it treated.
How to prevent early childhood tooth decay
Babies under the age of four to six months only require breast milk or formula. If you are bottle feeding, take the bottle away when the child has had enough. The bottle should only have breast milk or formula in it. Take the bottle away when the child is full. When the child is approximately six to eight months old, introduce them to a feeding cup. When the child becomes 12 months, the bottle can be discarded. When the child is thirsty, try to get them to drink water instead of juices or sweet drinks.
Pacifiers and early childhood tooth decay
All natural sugars including honey can lead to tooth decay so try to avoid dipping pacifiers in honey or any other liquid or foods.
Medicines and early tooth decay
If your child by chance needs any medications, be sure to enquire with your physician or the pharmacist if there is a sugar free form of the prescribed medication.
Dental check ups
Regular dental checkups can easily assist in detecting early childhood tooth decay. Dentists recommend that your child have his or hers first checkup prior to the age of 2. All children under the age of 12 are eligible for public oral health services. To see if your child is eligible, please contact the Dental Health Services.
Let your dentist know what the risk levels are for your child and they should be able to provide you the frequency of how often they would be required to visit.
Here are some tips on how to brush your baby or toddlers teeth.
• As soon as their first tooth appears, you should start cleaning their teeth. To do this, wipe the front and the back of each tooth with either a piece of gauze or a clean damp facecloth.
• If it can be tolerated, you can introduce a soft toothbrush at 12 months of age or earlier.
• Ensure that the brush gets along the gum line at least twice a day
• By the time the child reaches 18 months of age, an appropriate tooth brush should be introduced and just use a pea size amount of tooth paste.
Things to remember
• Early detection may prevent the need for any dental type of treatment.
• Babies under the age of six months only need formula or breast milk
• Teeth should be clean at the first sign of a tooth breaking through