Tooth Decay in Toddlers- Causes and Prevention

tooth decay

Tooth decay is one of the most common problems in childhood but it can be serious if left untreated and ignored. How does one define tooth decay? It is the destruction of the tooth enamel. The enamel of the tooth is the outermost covering of the tooth and is quite strong. Gradually, tooth decay can turn into holes in the teeth which are commonly called cavities. The upper front teeth and the molars are the ones that are mostly affected by tooth decay.

What is the Real Reason Behind Tooth Decay?

We have all heard our mothers to rinse our mouth after eating anything sweet and sticky like raisins, candies, chocolates, fruit juices cakes, etc. The reason behind it is very simple. Tooth decay occurs when sugars get stuck onto the surface of the teeth and remain there for a long time. The bacteria present in the mouth then start feeding on the sugar stuck to the teeth.

As a by-product of this process, acids are produced which in turn corrodes or breaks down the hard outer surface of the tooth called enamel. Plaque formation also encourages tooth decay. Plaque is nothing but a sticky, invisible film of bacteria which is formed on the surface of the teeth which is a combination of bacteria, food, saliva and acids produced by bacteria on eating sugars.

This affects the teeth of the toddlers more as the enamel of their teeth is comparatively softer and thinner than the adults, causing them to decay faster and easily.

Whitish marks on the surface of the tooth, close to the lining of the gums may be considered as one of the early signs of tooth decay. If this is ignored, it quickly progresses to form cavities which show a brown appearance on the teeth. Once the cavity starts becoming deeper, it turns to a darker shade of brown or black.

Signs and symptoms of tooth decay can vary from one child to another and at times they are not even aware that it is being formed.  However, once the tooth decays, the child may start feeling pain in and around the tooth and also feel sensitivity to certain foods like sweets or hot or cold drinks.

It has been observed that tooth decay is most likely to happen in who have poor oral hygiene and a diet high in sugar and junk food. Toddlers who sleep and suck their bottle filled with sweet milk also have high rates of cavity formation.

This is because a lesser amount of saliva is produced while sleeping which is not enough to wash off the bacteria and prevent plaque formation.  Children who are breastfed for more than a year also are at risk of tooth decay as compared to other children who are weaned off on time. Snacking frequently is also found to increase the rate of tooth decay as there are very little times to prevent plaque build up.

Following a few simple guidelines can go a long way in preventing tooth decay in toddlers:-

  1. Brushing the child’s teeth, gums and tongue twice a day, preferably with a fluoride toothpaste helps a great deal.
  2. After the age of 2, flossing the child’s teeth is important.
  3. If the child is still using a bottle at bedtime, don’t fill in any sweet liquid, instead put only water.
  4. Ensuring a balanced diet for the child is essential. Prevent snacks that are sugary and sticky like cookies, candies, chips etc. One must even try to prevent medicines that are laden with sugar.
  5. Bacteria that cause tooth decay can be transferred from one’s mouth to another. So stop sharing of utensils.
  6. Regular visits to the dentist for routine check up, cleanings and fillings after every 6 months is mandatory. If the dentist sees a cavity being formed, he will treat it on time so as to prevent the loss of the tooth.
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