How Young Can my Child Develop a Cavity?
Like so many things in a growing child’s life, exactly what’s best for pediatric dental care changes quickly – and it’s essential to stay informed as the years go by. Let’s review the key facts you should know.
Statistics for Cavities in Children
A child’s teeth start forming before birth, and though it’s rare, they can develop decay at any point after erupting from the gums. Teeth start to appear as early as four months of age, and all primary (“baby”) teeth should be in place by age three.
- 42% of children develop cavities from age 2 to 11.
- Nearly 28% of children aged 2 to 5 develop a cavity.
Importance of Oral Hygiene for Toddlers
Good dental hygiene is critical from the earliest stages of development. It’s also vital for parents and other responsible adults to understand their role in pediatric dental care. Sound dental health starts at home, and the habits established in these formative years will help determine how kids care for their teeth and gums in the future.
Even though primary teeth are quickly replaced by permanent adult teeth, they must be protected from decay. Early damage to teeth may affect the gums and could require dental work.
What Causes Tooth Decay So Young?
The most common contributor to early tooth decay is improper use of a baby bottle. Erosion of the teeth, known as baby bottle decay, can occur if a bottle containing anything other than water is left in an infant’s mouth overnight. To safeguard against decay, check teeth every two weeks for brown spotting. Ideally, sleeping infants should never breast or bottle-feed.
Thumb sucking can also weaken teeth and lead to problems in the future. As a child develops, this habit can cause changes in the structure of the roof of the mouth. As permanent teeth are moving in, thumb sucking may cause misalignment that must be corrected with braces.
How Are Tooth Decay and Cavities in Younger Children Treated?
Dental work can be used to mitigate tooth decay in young children. Fillings may be used in small cavities and crowns can be applied to extensively damaged teeth. A crown effectively stops bacteria from spreading beyond the damaged tooth.
In the most severe cases, a decayed tooth may have to be extracted. Just as with adult patients, this is considered a last resort. However, extraction of damaged baby teeth will not affect the well-being of adult teeth as long as it is performed by an expert pediatric dentist.
Ways to Prevent the Formation of Cavities
Children are at risk for tooth decay caused by over-exposure to sugary beverages and candy.
Sugar is a potent fuel for the bacteria that forms into dental plaque and causes cavities. Children should drink sugary drinks with a straw to minimize direct contact with the teeth. Lollipops, caramel, and other candies that last a long time should be enjoyed in moderation.
A responsible adult should brush and floss a child’s teeth daily. From the time teeth first erupt, a quantity of toothpaste the size of a rice grain can be applied. At age 3, the quantity can be increased to the size of a pea. In all cases, only fluoride toothpaste should be used.
Here at Park View Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, our practice is exclusively focused on children and their unique needs. We create a fun and friendly environment kids will look forward to visiting, making it easier for them to build strong dental health habits early in life.