Tooth decay not only affects adults but also affects toddlers. The main reasons for toddler tooth decay are going to the bed with a milk or juice bottle, poor oral hygiene, and sugary foods and drinks such as soft drinks. According to the NIDCR, 42% of the children between the ages of 2 and 11 have tooth decay in their deciduous teeth, also known as milk, temporary, or baby teeth.
Toddler Tooth Decay Is Often Recognized Too Late
Since parents usually don’t know the changes that occur in the early stage of tooth decay, for example, whitish and brownish discolorations, they visit the pediatric dentist too late. If the tooth decay is already advanced, the deciduous tooth may need to be extracted. The consequences of early tooth loss include:
- Chewing problems and poor nutrition.
- Speech problems.
- Aesthetic and social problems.
- Delay in the eruption of permanent teeth.
Causes of Toddler Tooth Decay
If the toddler’s teeth are not cleaned regularly, the plaque will accumulate on teeth surfaces. The plaque contains a mass of bacteria that decompose carbohydrates from our diet especially sugar and produce acids. These acids dissolve the tooth enamel, causing toddler tooth decay. There are several factors that increase the risk of toddler tooth decay, include:
- Poor oral hygiene.
- Consumption of unhealthy diet such as sugary and acidic foods.
- Going to the bed with a milk or juice bottle (baby bottle tooth decay).
Treatment of Toddler Tooth Decay
The treatment of the toddler tooth decay depends on the severity of the decay. Possible treatment options include:
- Fluoride treatments: in the early stage, tooth decay in toddlers can be reversed (remineralization) by a professional fluoride treatment which is available in the form of a varnish, gel, liquid, or foam.
- Tooth filling: in the case of small cavities, the dentist removes the tooth decay under local anesthesia. Then, he/she places a tooth filling, for example, amalgam, composite, or compomer.
- Stainless steel crown: if the tooth damage is extensive, the toddler may need a stainless steel crown.
- Pulpotomy/Pulpectomy: if the tooth decay reached the pulp, the dentist will remove the infected or dead pulp and place a filling material. This procedure is known as pulpotomy/pulpectomy.
- Tooth Extraction: if the tooth is severely damaged and can’t be restored by the other treatment options, it should be extracted.
Prevention of Toddler Tooth Decay
To prevent toddler tooth decay, you should:
- Brush your toddler’s teeth daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Don’t use fluoride toothpaste until your child is at least two years old.
- Floss your toddler’s teeth daily to remove food debris from between teeth.
- Limit sugary and acidic foods. Also, don’t give your child a milk or juice bottle before bed.
- Visit the pediatric dentist regularly to detect and treat toddler tooth decay early.
Good oral hygiene, regular dental visits, and a balanced diet are the basis for a healthy toddler’s mouth. The treatment of tooth decay in toddlers is sometimes more difficult than in adults because toddlers don’t want to open their mouths or start crying which makes the treatment much harder.