Tooth decay, or ‘dental caries’ in children is to be avoided or, at the very least, treated immediately. The longer the tooth decay is left untreated the more likely your child will develop pain and discomfort. Anxiety at dental visits can happen as they will associate going to the dentist with pain, and more expensive treatment may be required.
Good dental habits start early and you should always be checking your child does not have caries. The first sign of tooth decay is discolouration, with brown spots on the teeth or a dull white band along the gum line. The gums can also appear red and swollen. Decay is caused by bacteria found in the mouth that feeds on sugars in food and drinks. It produces an acid that damages the surface of their primary teeth.
Tooth Decay in Children – Causes
Tooth decay in children is often due to:
- Inadequate dental care
- Not brushing child’s teeth enough
- Unhealthy eating habits such as sucking on sweets or sugary or acidic foods/drinks. Constant snacking is not good as teeth need a break between meals when saliva helps neutralise acids in the mouth which break down tooth enamel. Saliva is also rich in calcium which protect your child’s teeth. Only water should ideally be consumed between meals.
- Putting your child to bed with a bottle. Milk or juice can sit in your baby/toddler’s mouth all night and cause tooth decay.
Tooth Decay in Children – Treatments
Tooth decay should be treated as soon as it is noted as the condition could worsen. Smaller cavities may only require fillings. A full crown may be needed if the damage is extensive. If there is decay throughout the tooth extraction may be necessary. As the baby teeth provide the spacing for their adult teeth, extractions are to be avoided if possible.
If your child is very young or requires extensive treatment they may need referral to a paediatric dentist who can complete their treatment under general anaesthesia in hospital. Prevention, or early treatment is far preferable – for you and for your child.