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Tooth decay in children

Family DentistryHealth Tips

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Unfortunately, every child is at risk of tooth decay which is why it is important to get your child into a good tooth cleaning routine as soon as their first tooth appears. Children’s baby teeth are more at risk of decay than most people realise. Unfortunately there has been a rise in tooth decay in children over the last couple of years.

We all get busy and have a number of things on our schedule that sometimes a regular dental check-up gets overlooked. Don’t let that happen to your kids appointments, without these routine appointments your child could develop tooth decay without you even knowing it. 

Regular dental check-ups are important for spotting and treating early signs of decay. 

What is Tooth Decay in Children?

Tooth decay is the breakdown of the tooth enamel. The enamel itself is the hard outer surface of the tooth. Tooth decay can lead to cavities which are holes in the teeth. The enamel is much softer and thinner on baby teeth, making them at great risk of decay. The great news is with proper dental care and attention, tooth decay is very much preventable.

Taking care of your child’s baby teeth is very important. They not only help children eat and speak, they also guide the permanent adult teeth into the correct position which is why it is imperative to take care of your child’s teeth to the best of your ability from the start. 

What Causes Tooth Decay in Children?

Many assume tooth decay is linked directly to copious amounts of sugar however, this is not always the case. Tooth decay is caused by bacteria and other things. It can happen when foods are left on the teeth, these often include milk, soft drinks, raisins, sweets, cake, fruit juices and bread.

Bacteria that normally live in the mouth can alter these foods, making them acids that will corrode the teeth, The combination of bacteria, acid, food and saliva form a substance called plaque that sticks to the teeth. Over time, the acids made by the bacteria will eat away at the tooth enamel, causing cavities.

How is Tooth Decay Diagnosed in a Child?

Your child’s dentist can diagnose tooth decay based on:

  • Dental X-rays 
  • An exam of your child’s mouth 
  • A complete health history of your child

Is my child at risk for tooth decay?

All children have bacteria in their mouths therefore, all children are unfortunately at risk for tooth decay. 

Prevention is better than treatment. If you get your kids in a good dental care routine as soon as their first teeth appears and stick to it, your child is less at risk of getting tooth decay.

Symptoms of tooth decay 

Tooth decay develops over time and can be quite difficult to detect without the help of a dentist.

Signs of Early Childhood Tooth Decay:

The first sign that usually remains undetectable by parents
A dull white band on the tooth surface that is closest to the gum line

A sign that indicates progression of tooth decay (an early cavity)
A yellow, black or brown band on the tooth surface that is closest to the gum line

A sure sign that indicated that the child has advanced tooth decay (cavity becomes deeper)
Teeth that look like brownish or black stumps

The symptoms of cavities and tooth decay varies from child to child. Cavities don’t always cause any symptoms. Sometimes children don’t even know they have anything wrong until their dentist finds it. However, your child may feel:

  • Sensitivity to certain foods (usually hot or cold drinks)
  • Pain in the area around the tooth

Early Detection is Imperative

As dentists, we cannot stress enough how important early detection of tooth decay in young children is. If you do notice early signs of tooth decay in your child it is important that you book a dentist appointment. In the early stages, tooth decay can often be reversed with treatment by your dentist. However, because the early stages are often very difficult to detect, in many cases, the decay goes unnoticed until a more later and serious stage. If the decay gets to such a stage, it cannot be reversed and the child may need major dental treatment.

This is why it is so important to check your child’s teeth regularly and stick to your routine dental appointments. If you see anything unusual on your child’s teeth or gums, book a dental appointment. 

Preventing Tooth Decay in Children 

You can help prevent tooth decay in young children by introducing good cleaning habits from very early on and also good, healthy eating habits.

  • Teach good habits early.
    Teach your child to brush and floss every day, get them into the habit. Floss as well as brush your child’s teeth daily after age 2. For children younger than 3 years old, use only a small amount of toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice). Starting at age three you can increase the size of toothpaste to a pea-sized amount.
  • Be stingy with the juice.
    Juice, especially fruit juices, contain a lot of sugars that can lead to tooth decay. Fruit juice is not necessary nor is it recommended for children because of its high sugar content as well as its acidity. If your child uses a bottle at bedtime, be sure to only put water in it. You should start to introduce cups for drinking at age 12 months or earlier. 
  • Good feeding habit.
    – Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle.
    – Never put sweet or sugary drinks in a baby’s bottle.
    – Ensure that water is the main drink your child has.
    – Limit snacks that are sticky and high in sugars, this includes: cookies, sweets and cakes.
    – Never dip dummies in sweet substances (e.g. honey or sugar).
    – Ask for sugar-free medicines if possible.
  • Prevent the transfer of bacteria
    – Don’t share eating utensils with your child, you will be transferring the bacteria from your mouth to your child’s. — – Always clean your baby’s pacifier properly.
  • Schedule routine dental visits
    Be sure to schedule and attend routine dental cleaning and exams for both you and your child every 6 months. We allow babies to come in with their mothers as babies and get used to the dental exam whilst sitting on mum’s lap.
Child at a dental appointment

Dental Checks Can Spot Early Signs of Tooth Decay in Children

We recommend that children have their first dental check by the time that their first tooth appears or by the time they turn 2. Make sure that as your child grows up, you regularly take them for their routine visits to the dentist, not only will this allow your children to fear the dentist a little less but it will also ensure that your dentist can spot any issues and treat them right when they occur. 

Book Your Child’s Dental Appointment Today

To book a dental appointment for your child, no matter their age, please contact us today. Our dentists are experts at treating children and making them feel comfortable and safe.

Find out more about our dental hygiene services.

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Contact us today to find out more about booking an appointment in Esher, Surrey or Wandsworth, South West London.