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Dental caries is also known as tooth decay. The main source of tooth decay is dental plaque. Dental plaque is a sticky white or yellowish film that always attaches to our tooth surface as we consume food. If we manage to remove plaque totally from our tooth surfaces through brushing and flossing there would be no tooth decay.
A tooth has 3 layers namely enamel, dentine and pulp. When bacteria inside the plaque metabolizes, they will release acid which will cause demineralization of tooth enamel causing tooth cavity. This process could be reversed if the plaque is removed in time and the minerals in our saliva help to re-mineralize that particular spot. Therefore, sometimes we see brownish spots turning into white spots on our teeth.
Children’s teeth are thinner. So they are more susceptible to dental caries. Baby bottle tooth decay or early childhood caries refers to severe tooth decay in a child.
- The child may complain of pain or discomfort while chewing and drinking cold or hot.
- The tooth surfaces turning brownish or blackish.
- Tooth cavities get spotted as food gets stuck.
- Sinus (pin point pus discharge over gum) noted near to decayed teeth.
- Gum swelling with pus pooling.
- Fever due to dental infection.
- Facial swelling cum redness if infection sets in.
- Low appetite
- Emotionally stressed
- Visit the dentist for proper treatment
- Do not simply prescribe pain killer for the child as we need to solve the source of the problem
- Decayed tooth could be filled.
- Badly decayed tooth that is not restorable and has no symptoms maybe left as space maintainer for the permanent teeth to erupt.
- Decayed tooth that is associated with abscess may require pulp treatment but it depends on the cooperation of the child. Sometimes extraction is inevitable.
When to contact a dentist
- You should bring your children to see a dentist when their tooth first erupted.
- Dentist would be able to teach you proper oral habits, brushing technique and plan a routine check up to help maintain good oral health for your children.
- If you want to see a specialist on children dentistry you should look for Pediatric dentist.
- Avoid sweetened liquid or food.
- Substitute sugar with honey as honey is not cariogenic (promotes dental caries).
- After feeding, make it a routine to wipe the baby’s gums and tongue to clean them.
- Start cleaning the child tooth since it first erupted usually at 6 months of age. Just wipe the tooth all round with a clean cloth or gauze.
- Start teaching brushing when the child is old enough to hold a toothbrush properly, usually at 2 years of age.
- Do not feed milk, sweetened juices or liquids while a child is going to sleep. These liquids will trap underneath the child’s upper lip causing their upper front teeth to get decayed.
- Make dentist visit a routine at 6 months interval.
- Let the child gets familiar with the dentist rather to instill fear in them as sometimes parents tend to threaten children of extracting their teeth if they do not brush well or they eat sweets too often.
- Try not to use fluoridated toothpaste when the child is still young as they might swallow toothpaste causing unwanted dental fluorosis. ( white brown flecks on tooth surface )
- It helps to ingest fluoridated water as fluoride helps strengthen our teeth but not in high concentration.
It is important to start a good oral hygiene habit from the beginning when we are still young. This healthy habit will enable us to have good teeth and great smiles for a life time.