Did you know that tooth decay is the most common long-term childhood disease? Children of any age can get tooth decay, even babies and toddlers. And tooth decay is five times more common than asthma. The good news is that tooth decay can be prevented!
Bacteria in the mouth change the sugar in foods and drinks into acid that attacks the teeth. Each time you eat or drink, that acid can attack the teeth for 20 minutes or longer. Over time tooth decay can develop and a cavity can form.
Tooth decay in the primary (baby) teeth of young children is also called early childhood caries. Caries is another word for a cavity. It happens when the child’s teeth come into contact with sugary foods and drinks often and for long periods of time. These drinks include fruit juices, soda and other drinks with sugar.
Parents are often surprised to learn that tooth decay can begin as soon as a baby’s teeth come in, usually by age six months. Decay in baby teeth can cause pain, and the infection can spread. If decay is not treated, it can destroy the baby teeth.
Tooth decay can also have an effect on a child’s general health. If a child has tooth pain, she may have trouble eating. The child may not get enough vitamins and minerals to grow up healthy.
Baby teeth hold space in the jaw for the adult teeth. If a baby tooth is lost too early, the teeth beside it may drift into the empty space. When it’s time for the adult teeth to come in, there may not be enough room for them. This may cause adult teeth to be crowded and crooked. Crooked teeth may be hard to keep clean.
If a baby tooth is lost too early, the teeth beside it may drift into the empty space.
If a child’s baby teeth are healthy, it is more likely his adult teeth will be healthy too. Children who have decay in their baby teeth are more likely to have decay in their adult teeth.
Decayed and crooked teeth also can affect your child’s self-esteem. Tooth decay is not only unhealthy, it also looks bad. If your child has tooth decay he may feel bad about his smile. On the other hand, a nice-looking smile can give your child confidence at school.
Children learn healthy habits from their parents and caregivers. You can start good habits if you clean your child’s teeth every day, feed your child a healthy diet and take her to the dentist regularly.