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What causes tooth decay in baby teeth?

What causes tooth decay in baby teeth?
What causes tooth decay in baby teeth?

The human mouth is naturally filled with bacteria that are necessary to our digestive process and hygiene, but when we eat something and don’t brush our teeth properly, the bacteria will feed on the pieces of food left on our teeth, release an acid solution, and possibly result in cavities.

But why are baby teeth so predisposed to tooth decay, that one in seven toddlers suffer from it? Well, the obvious factor is that kids that age usually hate brushing their teeth correctly, and it takes a lot of supervision to make sure they don’t go to bed with poorly brushed teeth.

The second factor is that those baby teeth have a much thinner layer of enamel protecting their roots. That means that when a cavity is formed on a baby tooth, it has a thin layer of protection that will likely not be strong enough to protect the teeth from all damage.

Baby bottle tooth decay

Baby bottle tooth decay is caused by feeding a child breastmilk or formula at nap time or bedtime. This happens often because a lot of children fall asleep after being fed, and you don’t want to disrupt their sleep to clean their mouth, but that is a necessary measure to avoid cavities.

Most mothers don’t think of breastmilk or formula as a drink that contains sugar, but as a certain level of glucose is important for baby development, both of those liquids contain sugar. So when you feed your baby right before bedtime, they stay all night with milk residue in their mouth and that is the perfect situation for a cavity to grow.

This condition caused by bedtime feeding is so common, that a lot of parents think baby teeth can grow in “rotten” normally, not knowing what is causing the issue.

But before you panic with the thought that you’ll have to put your baby to sleep without feeding them, know that you can still put them to sleep after taking care of their dental hygiene.

You can hold a piece of wet gaze with your finger and gently brush the child’s gums and teeth before they go to bed, and as they grow, you can start using a toothbrush made for infants to softly brush their teeth.

If your baby is the type that needs something in their mouth to go to bed, you can offer them a pacifier instead of a bottle, and it will have the same soothing effect without harming their mouth.

Tooth decay caused by asthma inhalers or puffers

Inhalers or puffers are essential to children who suffer from asthma, but if not paired with good dental care, they can also make your child more likely to develop tooth decay.

That’s because the inhalers release an acidic solution into your child’s mouth that can be harmful to the enamel, and making your mouth dry also allows bacteria to stay in the teeth for longer.

This normal condition has created its own myth of “kids with asthma have more cavities” and some parents may think that asthma itself causes dental issues.

Thankfully, this is incredibly easy to avoid by just making sure your child rinses their mouth thoroughly after each inhaler puff, and that they stay hydrated during the day. If you want to go the extra mile, brushing your teeth 30 minutes after using an inhaler is even better.

What are the repercussions of tooth decay?

Even though tooth decay is very common in children, being recognized as the main health reason that causes kids between 3 and 5 to miss school, this condition can be a bit of a headache if not dealt with as soon as possible.

Baby tooth decay can spread like wildfire if ignored and can even affect the growing adult teeth that the child hasn’t grown yet. If left untreated, this can cause lots of pain and discomfort, poor nutrition, jaw development issues, and higher chances of affecting the adult tooth.

Unfortunately, tooth decay in children cannot be reversed, but a dentist will be able to clean the area and fill in the decayed portion. This is very important to restore the functionality of the tooth that was affected. The pediatric dentist at Urbana MD, Dr. Dinia, is specialized in treating young patients and will be able to advise you on the best course of care for your child’s teeth.

How to identify signs of tooth decay earlier

The best method to avoid further damage to the dental health of your child is identifying the early signs of a cavity, even if the child isn’t able to communicate the symptoms. This way you can take steps to guarantee your baby won’t need to lose teeth or be in pain.

Some common signs are

  • Stains or faint dark marks on the tooth

  • The child loses appetite

  • Pimple or swelling on the gums

  • Swelling on the child’s cheeks

  • The child puts hands in their mouth very often

  • Small hole on the tooth

  • Development of a dull white band along the gum line

When a cavity is small or developing is very hard to notice signs, some children may not present those symptoms in the same way. This is why preventing tooth decay is by far more effective than treating a cavity when it has already started.

How to prevent tooth decay in children’s teeth

Our kids dentist at Urbana MD, believe the best way to keep teeth healthy is through education and preventative measures. There are many simple ways to prevent tooth decay in your children’s teeth through healthy eating and lifestyle habits that will benefit them in other ways as well. Some of these measures are:

Make sure your child is brushing their teeth properly at least twice a day, with fluoride toothpaste.

  • Encourage your child to eat mostly low-sugar snacks during the day.

  • Set regular times for snacks instead of letting your child eat whenever they’d like during the day. This can discourage long periods of eating since the longer the food stays in their mouth, the more chance there is for cavity development.

  • Offer water instead of sugary juices when they’re thirsty

  • Avoid putting your baby to bed with a bottle and make sure to clean their teeth if you do.

  • Rinse mouth after each inhaler puff in case of asthma

  • Be a role model for good dental health

To provide your child with the best start for their oral hygiene, please contact us at Urbana Pediatric Dentistry. Through education and preventative care, we can work together to ensure your child has a healthy life long smile.

If you have any additional questions about your child's oral hygiene, please feel free to contact us at Urbana Pediatric Dentistry. To learn more about Urbana Pediatric Dentistry visit our About Us page. For more tips and information feel free to Contact Us and follow us on social media on Instagram @urbanapediatricdentistry and Facebook @urbanapediatricdentistry.


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