Tooth Decay in Children
Tooth decay is prevalent in young children at a rate that experts say reaches epidemic proportions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42% of children aged 2 to 11 have experienced cavities in their baby teeth while 21% of children 6 to 11 experienced cavities in their permanent teeth. For children, especially younger ones, having healthy teeth isn’t just vanity, it can be a matter of life and death.
Tooth decay may be deadly because cavities are caused by bacteria in the mouth, which can spread from the tooth to the nerve, to the bloodstream where it can cause much more harm. A 12 year-old boy in Maryland died in 2007 after bacteria from an abscessed tooth spread to his brain. Plus, baby teeth are very important to children, not only for being able to chew and speak properly, but to ensure permanent teeth are healthy. Without baby teeth, permanent teeth may grow in crowded or out of line.
What causes infant tooth decay?
A mix of sugar and bacteria. Some liquids your baby consumes may contain sugar, such as formula or juice, and if you don’t properly clean your child’s mouth, this sugar may help bacteria grow in your baby’s mouth, which produces acid that can harm your baby’s teeth.
What does infant tooth decay look like?
The first sign will be white spots close to the gums. To ensure your child’s dental health you should make a dental appointment before your child turns 1, and then make sure to keep regular checkups thereafter.
For babies up to 2 years old here are some tips:
- Clean your baby’s mouth and gums with a soft cloth or infant toothbrush when you bathe them.
- Once they have teeth use a “smear” of toothpaste to clean their mouths twice a day.
- Don’t give your baby any sugar- or carbohydrate-heavy food or drink before they are going to sleep.
- Don’t dip pacifiers in anything with lots of sugar.
- Don’t fill your baby’s bottle with sweet liquids.
- Don’t let your baby fall asleep with a bottle.
- Try to wean your baby off bottles by the time they are around 2 years old.
Once your children begin to grow, flossing, regular brushing and regular dental visits are vital to ensuring continued dental health. Plus, avoiding foods high in sugar. See our recent post about the foods that are the worst for your teeth here.