early childhood cavitiesWhat is Early Childhood Caries?

Dental caries, baby bottle tooth decay, or more commonly, dental cavities, is a common infectious disease. Among children, it is the most common infectious disease. The American Dental Association (ADA) defines ECC as “the presence of one or more decayed (non-cavitated or cavitated lesions), missing (due to caries) or filled tooth surfaces in any primary tooth in a preschool-age child between birth and 71 months of age.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reported that early childhood caries (ECC) are five times more likely to be diagnosed than asthma.

Early childhood cavities are the result of the interaction of sugar on tooth enamel and bacteria that live in your mouth, mainly Streptococcus mutans. The acid that develops from the interaction breaks down the surface of the tooth and leads to decay. The American Dental Association recognizes that dental caries is a significant public health problem in pre-school age children that requires careful attention.

Detecting ECC

White spots near your child’s gum line may be the first sign of early childhood cavities. If these spots are not treated and continue to decay, they will turn brown and appear as holes in the teeth. If your child is experiencing any pain when eating, you’ll want to have his or her teeth looked at right away, as this may be an indication of ECC. Any change in your child’s teeth should be assessed quickly and taken care of. If your child does, indeed, have decay, the earlier the diagnosis, the better the prognosis.

Preventing ECC

Not allowing your child to sleep with a bottle that contains a sweet liquid such as juice or milk is the main way to prevent early childhood caries. Unfortunately, this is the biggest mistake that we see parents make with their child’s teeth. When a child falls asleep with sweet liquid inside of a bottle, that liquid may pool and sit inside the mouth for a long period of time. The longer sugary liquid sits in a child’s mouth, the more likely the child will develop tooth decay.

Once the decay is present inside a child’s mouth, it will only continue to flourish. If your child needs a bottle while sleeping, be sure that the bottle only contains water. If your child falls asleep with sugar-coated on his or her teeth, it becomes the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Water, on the other hand, washes bacteria away to help avoid decay. Avoiding foods and drinks that contain a large amount of sugar is also a good practice in general. We all know that sugar can lead to cavities, but a child’s fragile baby teeth are particularly susceptible.

Parent Education

Be sure that your child visits the dentist for the first time within six months after the first tooth erupts. After teeth have erupted, be sure your child’s teeth are being brushed twice a day. Getting your child into the habit of brushing is essential. This will benefit overall hygiene health that will extend on throughout a person’s life. Children are usually able to take care of their own teeth once they are able to write their own names. Until then, a parent is responsible for making sure that their child’s teeth are taken care of. Introducing your child to a dental office early on will make it easier for them (and you) down the line. The more educated a parent is about preventing early childhood caries, the healthier a child’s mouth will be.

Regular Dentist Visits

While early childhood caries can be prevented, leaving them untreated can lead to much more serious infections that can affect a child’s growth and development. ECC can lead to a loss of primary teeth which can affect that way that secondary, adult teeth, develop. Parents and dentists together are responsible for preventing early childhood cavities and treating them before they become a problem. Taking care of a young child’s teeth can certainly be challenging due to attention span, cooperation, etc, but it will make life much easier in the long run. Be sure to start your child off early with good hygiene habits. Schedule an appointment with Reno Dental Associates to give your child the smile he or she deserves!

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