Early Childhood Tooth Decay
What causes tooth decay (aka cavities)?
Several specific types of bacteria that live in the mouth and that reside on the teeth can cause decay. When sugar is consumed, the bacteria use the sugar to manufacture acids that dissolve the tooth surface and cause an infection in the tooth. This infection is called dental decay or caries.
What is Early Childhood Caries (ECC)?
Babies who go to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice are more likely to get tooth decay. Because the sugar in formula, milk, or juice stays in contact with the teeth for a long time during the night, the teeth can decay quickly.
Some tips to avoid Early Childhood Caries
- Put your child to bed with nothing other than a bottle or cup of plain water, not milk or juice.
- Stop nursing when your child is asleep or has stopped sucking on the bottle.
- Wipe the gums and teeth using a cloth even if your child has fallen asleep.
- Try not to let your child walk around using a bottle of milk or juice as a pacifier.
- Discontinue using a bottle by age 1.
- Reduce ad libitum breast feeding by age 1.
- Discontinue using a sip cup by age 2.
- Never dip your child’s pacifier in honey or sugar.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a molecule that helps make teeth strong and prevents tooth decay. Fluoride is available in many of the foods and drinks that we consume. Dr. Reed recommends fluoride applications twice a year by a dental professional in your dental home to strengthen the weak spots that are developing on your child’s teeth from daily use. If the water where you live does not have enough fluoride, your doctor or dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements. If you do not know, be sure to contact your local water authority and ask if your water is fluoridated.