Tooth Decay In Young Children
The appearance of a baby’s first tooth is always exciting for parents as it is often a sign that a child is growing appropriately. These primary teeth have usually all fallen out by the time a child is 11 or 12 years of age: however, while they are in the mouth they play an extremely important role in the development of young people. Primary teeth help children to chew and speak properly, and molars maintain space for growing adult teeth.
Sadly, these young teeth can develop decay which, if it isn’t treated, are likely to cause pain or discomfort for the child and may even result in abscesses or systemic infection.
Therefore, it is vital that the proper care of primary teeth begins as soon as baby gets their first tooth. It is important that parents and carers begin brushing teeth from the outset and also educate themselves about the role that bottles, dummies and diet have when it comes to the health of a toddler’s teeth.
When a child has cavities, fillings or missing teeth due to decay before 24 months of age, it is known as ‘early childhood caries’ (ECC).
This can have a significant effect on a child’s health and well-being.
Paediatric dentist, Dr Michele Tjeuw, explains that although entirely preventable, ECC is the most prevalent chronic childhood disease, five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.
Early childhood caries can also negatively affect growth, cognitive development, speech, self-image and social functioning. Unfortunately, children who experience ECC are more likely to experience other dental problems as they grow older (http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/oralhealth/Publications/ecoh-eval.pdf). Therefore, dental check-ups are important for all children, to assess the developing dentition and to identify risk factors for ECC such as:
- developmental enamel defects (where the enamel coating is thinner or softer than normal)
- unsupervised brushing and flossing
- frequent snacking
- night-time bottle-feeding with liquids other than water, such as milk or fruit juice.
You can read more about this here http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/our-publications/every-child-magazine/every-child-index/every-child-vol-18-3-2012/brush-babies-baby-infant-oral-health-free-article/
The Australasian and American Academy of Paediatric Dentists recommend an initial oral health check at the time of the eruption of the first tooth and no later than 12 months of age, followed by regular checkups. It is also vital that parents and carers practice good oral hygiene with their toddlers by brushing and flossing twice a day to dislodge food and lower levels of bacterial plaque, and maintain a good diet.
Following the ‘5/2 rule’ is a great habit for families to get into from when children are young – eating 5 times a day, brushing 2 times a day, and only drinking water between meals.
Lift the Lip
South Australia have implemented a great public screening initiative called ‘Lift the Lip’. This initiative teaches parents and carers what to look for when it comes to tooth decay by simply lifting the child’s top lip in order to check the outer surface of the top front teeth.
If there are white lines or frosty patches on the top teeth near the gum line, this can be an indicator of tooth decay so it is important to see your dentist.
If there are brown areas or decayed spots on the teeth, this means there is more advanced decay and you need to see your dentist immediately.
Both Western Australia and New South Wales have similar initiatives to help identify the signs of tooth decay in children. It’s such an easy thing to do and could mean the difference between identifying ECC before it is too late.
Here at Corinna Dental Group, we can help with the dental needs of your babies and toddlers. It’s great to start bringing your children to the dentist from an early age so they can get used to visiting and we can get to know them too! We can also discuss ways in which you can help your children prevent decay, as well as provide you with strategies to help you teach good oral hygiene habits.
Last Updated: January 24, 2019