Tooth decay in kids is common. According to the Australian Dental Association, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in childhood. Tooth decay can lead to a host of potential oral health issues like pain, bad breath and tooth loss.
Tooth decay is a disease that is sometimes perceived as something you ‘just get’. The good news is that tooth decay in kids is not inevitable. It’s preventable, treatable and in its early stages, can be reversible.
As your children’s dentist in Mona Vale, we love working with children. We have a lot of experience when it comes to tooth decay in kids. In this article, we explain what decay is, its causes and symptoms, and how to prevent it.
What Is Tooth Decay?
A build-up of plaque on your child’s teeth can gradually demineralise their enamel, the protective outer layer of their teeth. Tooth decay happens in stages but can at times progress quickly in children. This is due to baby teeth enamel being thinner than enamel in adult teeth.
Tooth demineralisation can then progress to cavities. Cavities begin as little holes but, if left untreated, they can become deeper over time, spreading through the tooth. As the tooth decay spreads it can reach the nerve space. Once there, infection can spread down the root to the bone underneath the tooth.
Although children do lose their baby teeth, with permanent ones coming into their place, their baby teeth are important. They play a significant role in your child’s jaw and mouth development, and their ability to eat and speak. Losing baby teeth before their time as a result of tooth decay can lead to oral health complications. What’s more, tooth decay can cause health problems beyond your child’s mouth.
So, staying on top of prevention and early detection of tooth decay in kids is essential.
Common Causes of Tooth Decay in Kids
Plaque is made from bacteria. This bacteria feeds on sugars in the things kids eat and drink, producing acid in the process. The acid is responsible for damaging the enamel on the outer layer of their teeth, causing decay. So, it’s safe to say that the two most predominant causes of tooth decay in kids are:
- A diet that is high in sugar
- A poor oral hygiene routine consisting of insufficient or ineffective brushing and flossing
Signs of Tooth Decay in Kids
It’s important to know what to look for when checking your child’s mouth and teeth for signs of poor oral health. Below are some of the common signs of tooth decay in kids:
- White patches on their teeth that are close to the gumline and remain after brushing their teeth
- Darkened spots on their teeth
- Holes in their teeth
- Inflamed gums
- Tooth sensitivity
- Bad breath
- Changes in behaviour, i.e. waking up regularly in the night, trouble chewing/eating
Outside of your child’s dental appointments, be sure to check their teeth thoroughly and often for signs of decay. Tooth decay, in its early stages, is treatable. So, early detection is key.
Tooth Decay Prevention
Helping your child form good dental health habits from the very start is the best way to prevent tooth decay. As a parent, it is important you assist and guide your child towards good dental health. This should be maintained until they can be responsible for this themselves.
The first step towards keeping your child’s teeth decay-free is ensuring they (with your help) maintain a good oral hygiene routine. This should include brushing their teeth twice daily and flossing the hard to reach spots between their teeth once they have two teeth touching. Having your child maintain a great oral hygiene routine reduces the number of bacteria left to linger in their mouth. It also helps teach them good dental habits for life.
Foods and drinks high in carbohydrates and sugar are some of the main culprits when it comes to tooth decay in kids. These types of things should be enjoyed by your child in moderation as ‘sometimes’ foods only.
Tooth decay in kids doesn’t always present symptoms. This means that significant damage may be caused before you’re aware of the problem. Ensuring your child visits your family dentist regularly can help with detecting and treating decay or any other dental issues early on. It also helps encourage your child to have the best possible chance of having and maintaining good oral health throughout their life.
Mona Vale Children’s Dentist
If you’re looking for a children’s dentist in the Northern Beaches, we can help you. Our gentle dentists have a lot of experience in children’s dentistry. We offer a wide range of treatment options, meaning we can support you through all your child’s dental milestones.
We love welcoming patients of all ages to our Mona Vale dental practice. Our team does their best to make every visit a positive experience for the whole family. Please contact us to make an appointment.