Early childhood caries is a rampant, aggressive form of decay that may be experienced at a very young age. The decay attacks the primary teeth and can spread quickly to all the teeth.
In the early stages, white spots or lines (called “carious lesions”) appear near the gumline close to the tongue and typically go unnoticed. Parents realize that the child has caries only when a cavity appears or when the teeth change colour to brown or black. The decay may happen so quickly that parents think that teeth have grown like this.
There are many possible causes of tooth decay among children, but diet and oral hygiene are the main factors. After each meal, food debris clings to the teeth. If it is not brushed away, the bacteria in the mouth transform the sugars in the food debris into acids that attack the tooth enamel.
That is why parents should teach their children proper oral hygiene as soon as possible and make it part of their daily routine.
Advice on snacks
- Granola bars, dried fruit and juice drinks, even natural ones, also contain sugar. Parents should limit their children to one sweet drink per day. The number of such drinks is as important as their sugar content.
- Dilute concentrated juices with water to reduce their sugar content.
- Give non-chewy, unsweetened snacks, such as cheese, vegetables and fresh fruit.
Factors that encourage early childhood caries
- allowing your baby to fall asleep with a bottle or sippy cup of juice, a sweet drink or milk
- giving your baby a pacifier dipped in something sweet
- giving your baby sweet foods or drinks all day long
- nursing your baby on demand during the night and not cleaning his or her teeth afterward
- failing to clean your baby’s teeth regularly
It is important to prevent the spread of bacteria by saliva between your baby and other family members. Do not share the same spoon or clean your baby’s pacifier by putting it in your mouth.