Tooth decay is a wide spread health issue, impacting almost 4billion people worldwide. It has also ranked among the most common diseases in American children. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, approximately 42% of children between the ages of 2 and 11 have had dental caries in their primary teeth. This is why it's essential for parents to understand the causes of tooth decay in toddlers and know the accompanying symptom and forms of prevention.
Tooth decay (often referred to as “cavities” or “caries”) is the destruction of the enamel (outer surface) of a tooth that causes holes in the teeth. Unfortunately, once these areas start to decay, you cannot reverse it; the damageis permanent. That’s why prevention is so important.
Everyone is at risk for tooth decay, as we all have bacteria in our mouths. These bacteria produce acids that erode the enamel of our teeth. Cavities tend to occur more so in the molars (back teeth). These harder-to-clean teeth have many crevices where food particles can get stuck. If they are not brushed and flossed regularly, these teeth can hold onto the particles and become a breeding ground for bacteria and decay.
If you have a little one running around at home, you may be wondering what causes tooth decay in toddlers?
Tooth decay is caused by the formation of plaque, a transparent film that covers the surface of your teeth. Plaque develops when a person eats many sugary and starchy foods without brushing their teeth as often or as thoroughly as needed. These sugars and starches remain on the teeth, causing bacteria to feed on them, thus forming plaque.
Once plaque makes its home on your teeth, it can begin to harden on your gums and materializes into a harder-to-remove substance called tartar. This tartar protects the bacteria in your mouth, making plaque harder to eliminate and creating an opportunity for more decay.
Children who have abnormal saliva flow, eat diets high in sugars and starches, and havepoor oral hygiene habits are at a greater risk for developing cavities.
Keep in mind that some people may not experience any symptoms, especially during the early stages of a cavity. Be sure to regularly examine your child’s teeth, looking for any spots or areas of concern. The following symptoms could indicate that your child may be experiencing a decaying tooth:
· Tooth ache
· Tooth sensitivity
· Pain while eating or drinking sweet, hot, or cold foods or beverages
· Noticeable brown, black, or white spots on teeth
· Pain when biting down
Although tooth decay is a prominent dental condition, there are many things you can do to prevent early childhood cavities. Here are several dental hygiene tips you can use in your child’s prevention plan:
1. Brus hand floss your child’s teeth or watch your toddler brush their teeth at least twice per day with a small, soft-bristled tooth brush and a pea-size amount of fluoride tooth paste. Also, ask them how their teeth are feeling; you know they’ll be honest!
2. Avoid feeding your child snacks that are high in sugars and starches throughout the day. These foods can cling to your teeth and are among the leading causes of cavities. Some of these particularly harmful snacks include:
3. Encourage your toddler to drink plenty of water and limit the number of sugary juices and drinks they consume. Drinking water naturally flushes out bacteria and washes away leftover food particles while diluting bacteria-produced acids that damage teeth.
4. Give your toddler specific foods and beverages that have been proven to strengthen teeth and prevent decay. These can include raw or cooked vegetables, fruits,tea, and sugar-free gum.
Schedule Recurring Dental Appointments for Your Toddler
The most concerning part about cavities is that they can go on undetected for an extended period without causing any symptoms. That’s why it’s critical to schedule regular appointments with your child’s dentist, as they can discover cavities early and prevent further teeth damage using sealants and other cavity-specific treatments. They can also provide more insight into the different causes of tooth decay in toddlers and advise you according to your child’s specific situation.