Baby teeth perform an essential role in the development of adult teeth. If your toddle develops tooth decay and loses teeth too early, the remaining healthy teeth may shift, leaving less room for adult teeth to come in. Moreover, failure to treat toddler tooth decay can cause pain or other infections that can be more costly to address.
Toddler tooth decay is sometimes known as nursing caries or baby bottle tooth decay and can start when your child’s first tooth erupts. Learning what causes the condition and recognizing the signs will ensure it’s taken care of quickly and promptly, saving you additional parental stress.
Tooth decay is caused by acid-producing bacteria that break down enamel (the outer protective layer of the tooth). Natural or added sugars in foods or liquids are converted to acid by bacteria in the mouth, causing tooth decay. If you put your toddler down to sleep with a bottle of milk, formula, juice, or other sugared drinks, the bacteria have time to build up.
For this reason, milk and other sweet drinks should only be served with meals and not offered at naptime or bedtime. Believe it or not, you can pass bacteria to your child through saliva. For example, when you share spoons or cups with your toddler, clean up a pacifier with your mouth, or taste your child’s food before feeding, you can transfer the bacteria to your toddler.
Tooth decay might initially appear as white spots along the gum line or on your child’s upper front teeth. The areas are often difficult to see without the right equipment. Any signs of tooth decay in toddlers should be examined and treated by your dentist early to prevent it from spreading.
Early signs of tooth decay in toddlers include:
You can help prevent your toddler from developing tooth decay by starting dental care early. These activities can work together to prevent cavities and keep your baby’s smile beautiful and healthy.
Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens the outer surface of your child’s teeth, protecting them from the acids that cause tooth decay. It also helps to rebuild weak enamel and reverses early signs of tooth decay.
Your child can get adequate fluoride from regular tap or bottled water and certain foods. Ordinary tap water and bottled water often contain safe amounts of fluoride. Only use fluoride supplements as directed by your dentist since excessive amounts can be toxic and stain your baby’s teeth. After a fluoride application, your baby should not drink or eat for at least 30 minutes to enhance optimum absorption.
Dental sealants are thin coatings that fill in the grooves on the chewing surfaces of your baby’s teeth to protect them from decay. Typically, sealants are applied on permanent molars to prevent food particles and bacteria from getting stuck on teeth. Your dentist may recommend using sealants as soon as the permanent molars erupt and before any signs of tooth decay show up. Applying sealants can minimize the need for additional dental procedures such as fillings and crowns.
As a parent, you play an essential role in protecting your child’s teeth and laying the foundation for proper dental hygiene for the rest of his or her life. Start right with good habits to ensure your child develops healthy, strong adult teeth.
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