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Tooth Decay in Kids

10 May 2024

Categories: Dental Care

Tooth Decay in Kids

Tooth decay remains one of the most common health issues affecting children worldwide. Despite being largely preventable, it is still a challenge for parents to manage their children’s oral health.

This blog explores the causes of tooth decay in young ones, underlines the importance of early detection, and provides practical prevention tips. From dietary recommendations to essential oral hygiene practices, we’ll guide you through effective strategies to keep your child’s teeth healthy and their smiles bright.

The Process of Tooth Decay in Kids

Tooth decay in young children, often referred to as caries, manifests in stages. Initially, you might notice white, chalky spots on the teeth, which can darken to brown or black as the decay progresses. The front upper baby teeth are usually the ones affected.

Commonly known as ‘nursing bottle caries,’ ‘infant feeding caries,’ or ‘baby bottle decay,’ this form of tooth decay is frequently linked to bedtime feeding habits. When babies and toddlers fall asleep with bottles containing milk, formula, or sweetened drinks, the lactose or sugars from these liquids remain in the mouth. This creates an ideal environment for decay-causing bacteria to thrive, particularly because saliva production, which normally helps protect against decay, decreases during sleep.

Additionally, consuming sugary beverages like fruit juices, cordials, and soft drinks during the day can also increase the risk of early childhood caries.

How to Tell If Your Kid Has a Tooth Decay

Catching early-stage tooth decay is crucial as it can often be reversed with professional dental care. However, the initial signs of decay are not always easy to detect. The condition frequently goes unnoticed until it has progressed to a more serious stag, where the decay is irreversible, and extensive dental treatment may be necessary.

Signs of Tooth Decay in Kids

Identifying tooth decay in its early stages can help prevent extensive damage and the need for significant treatment. Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Early stages: A dull white band near the gum line is often the first indicator of tooth decay, but it typically goes unnoticed by parents.
  • Progression: As the decay advances, this band may turn yellow, brown, or black, signaling more serious damage.
  • Advanced decay: In severe cases, the affected teeth might appear as brownish-black stumps, indicating extensive decay.

Symptoms of Tooth Decay in Kids

The symptoms associated with tooth decay and cavities can vary widely among children. In many cases, cavities do not present any noticeable symptoms. Often, children may be unaware of a cavity until a dentist identifies it during a routine check-up.

However, if symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Pain: Your child might experience discomfort or pain in the area surrounding the affected tooth.
  • Sensitivity: There may be increased sensitivity to certain foods or temperatures, especially sweets and, very hot or cold beverages.

Treatment for Tooth Decay in Kids

Kid smiling while dentist is checking her teeth

The approach to treating tooth decay in children depends on several factors. These include your child’s symptoms, age, oral hygiene, overall health, and the severity of the decay.

For mild cases of tooth decay, conservative treatment options may be sufficient. These can include the removal of plaque, cleaning the decayed area, remineralising the weakened teeth, and applying supplemental fluoride or dental sealants to protect the teeth.

More advanced decay typically requires the removal of the decayed portion of the tooth, This is then followed by the placement of a filling to restore the tooth’s integrity. Tooth fillings, also known as restorations, come in various types:

Direct Restorations

These require a single visit during which a filling is placed directly into the prepared cavity. Materials used for direct restorations may include silver, fine glass powders, acrylic acids, or resin. These are often tooth-coloured to blend seamlessly with the natural teeth.

Indirect Restorations

More complex cases might need two or more visits and involve inlays, onlays, veneers, dental crowns, and dental bridges. These restorations are made from materials such as gold, base metal alloys, ceramics, or composite resins, many of which mimic the appearance of natural tooth enamel.

Tips to Prevent Tooth Decay in Your Child

Preventing tooth decay in young children starts with establishing healthy eating habits and diligent oral care from an early age.

Good Eating Habits to Prevent Tooth Decay

  • Always remove your baby from the breast or bottle after feeding is complete.
  • Avoid putting your baby to bed with a bottle. It is recommended not to fill it with sweet drinks.
  • Encourage your child to start using a feeding cup around six months old and transition fully to a cup by the age of 12 months.

Water should be the primary beverage for children older than 12 months, supplemented by plain full-fat milk. Low-fat milk is suitable from two years onwards. Avoid fruit juices due to their high sugar content and acidity. Introduce a variety of nutritious, solid foods starting at six months, featuring different textures and flavors to promote healthy eating habits.

Additional Tips:

  • Do not coat pacifiers in sweet substances like honey, jam, or sugar.
  • Opt for sugar-free medications when available.
  • Regularly inspect your child’s mouth to catch any early signs of decay.

Good Oral Hygiene Practices

  • Begin cleaning your baby’s teeth as soon as the first one appears using a damp cloth or a small, soft children’s toothbrush.
  • From 18 months to six years, they can use a pea-sized amount of low-fluoride children’s toothpaste.
  • Children six years and older should use standard fluoride toothpaste, as long as they can spit it out after brushing.
  • Brush your child’s teeth twice daily, in the morning and before bed, paying special attention to the gum line.

Children will often require assistance with brushing until they are about eight years old to ensure it is done effectively.

Regular Visits to the Kids’ Dentist

In addition to fostering healthy eating habits and rigorous oral hygiene practices, bringing your child for regular dental cleanings and check-ups is just as important. Routine visits to your kids’ dentist play a significant role in preventing tooth decay and identifying any potential issues early on.

i.Dental offers specialised children’s dentistry services and is recognised as a Baby Bonus Approved Institution. This means that you can use your child’s Child Development Account (CDA) funds for dental services at any of our clinics throughout Singapore.

Book an appointment for your child today!

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