Several specific types of bacteria that live on the teeth cause decay. When sugar is consumed, the bacteria use the sugar and then manufacture acids that dissolve the teeth and cause decay.
What Is Early Childhood Tooth Decay?
Early Childhood Caries (also known as Baby Bottle Decay) is often caused when a child goes to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice. The sugar in formula, milk, or juice stays in contact with the teeth for a long time during the night which can cause the teeth to decay quickly.
Some Tips To Avoid Early Childhood Tooth Decay
- Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle of milk or juice, only use water.
- Avoid letting your child walk around using a bottle or sippy cup with juice, limit it to meal or snack time.
- Start to teach your child to drink from a cup early. Plan to stop using a bottle by 12 to 14 months and switch from a sippy cup to an open cup as soon as they are able.
- Don’t dip your child’s pacifier in honey or sugar.
- Start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as they come in. Use a soft age-appropriate tooth brush or cloth.
- Use toothpaste with fluoride! For children under 2 years use the size of a “grain of rice” and for children 2-5 use the size of a “pea” twice daily.
- Remember that children are not able to fully take brush their teeth without your assistance until they are 7-8 years old.
Your Child’s First Dentist Visit
It’s recommended that you bring your baby in for a visit within six months of the first tooth’s eruption – usually around his or her first birthday. Since decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely he or she is to avoid problems. We’ll look for any signs of early problems with your baby’s oral heath, and check in with you about the best way to care for your little one’s teeth. Remember that preparing for each dental visit with a positive attitude goes a long way toward making your child comfortable with regular checkups.
Setting the Example
Kids mimic adults – it is part of their learning process. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching and he or she will learn the importance of good habits at an early age. As soon as your child shows interest, offer a toothbrush of his or her own and encourage your toddler to “brush” with you. (You’ll find toothbrushes with chunky, short handles that are easy to grip.)
Most children don’t have the dexterity necessary to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they’re about seven or eight, so you should always brush their teeth again afterwards. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, or singing songs about brushing. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth!
Teething and Grinding
Teething usually occurs from six months old until all the baby teeth come in around age 3. Many children enjoy teething rings or spoons, especially when they are chilled, or a damp wash cloth. Some relief can come from rubbing the baby’s gums with a clean finger.
Grinding is extremely common in children and often disconcerting for parents. Do not be alarmed if you hear your child grind or even if you notice some wear on their baby teeth. Grinding usually will resolve on its own by age 6 when permanent (adult) teeth start coming in. If it does continue into adulthood a night guard may be recommended to protect the permanent teeth from wear.