Early Childhood Tooth Decay: The How’s and Why’s

dentist checking on a young girl's teethDental decay doesn’t just occur due to eating too many sweets during childhood. Babies and toddlers can develop it, as well, because of bad feeding habits and infections. Treatment options are tooth extraction, restoration, and preventative care.

What Is It?

Early childhood tooth decay is defined as the loss of teeth or decay of teeth in a child aged 71 months or younger. Early childhood caries is common and occurs in 8% of two-year-olds. Babies who are “cutting” their first teeth can be affected. Their teeth may begin to decay before the introduction of solid foods. Regular visits with a dentist for kids in salt lake city can help prevent tooth decay.

Why Infant Caries Happens

An infant’s teeth decay for different reasons:

Infection with Mutans Streptococci — Some people carry this bacterium in their mouths. It can adhere to enamel and damage it. It is passed on by caregivers via kissing or sharing food utensils. The transmission of infection is more common among caregivers with a dental infection or poor dental hygiene.

Repeated Bottle Feeding of Older Babies — Repeatedly bathing the teeth in any sugar-containing liquid, such as formula, fruit juices or sweetened drinks can cause decay. Giving sugary drinks at nap times or night feedings can cause it, too. This is because less saliva, which is anti-bacterial, is produced while asleep.

Dipping Soothers in Sugar — Some parents dip their baby’s soother in sugar to stop them crying, dramatically increasing their chance of tooth decay.

Treatment for Dental Caries

Treatment for infant caries involves cleaning and restoration or tooth extraction.

Tooth Restoration — Surface fillings and protective varnish can be applied to repair crumbling teeth without dental surgery. It can be beneficial to leave baby teeth in because they are the placeholders for the adult teeth. If they are removed, overcrowding can occur.

Extraction — If the tooth cannot be restored or if an infection has developed, it will have to be taken out.

Infant caries is common, but good dental hygiene for parents and children, regular dental visits, and reduced sugar intake are important ways to prevent tooth decay.