Over the past 3-4 years, I have noticed that the age of children with early childhood caries has been getting younger. The youngest child that I’ve seen with this issue was only 11 months old with 8 emerged teeth of which 4 upper teeth were already decayed. This caries issue can be seen in children who are younger than 18 months. At that age, children mainly consume milk as their daily diet. Bottle feeding can cause extensive damage to the tooth structure. Children that are fed with breast milk may have dental caries but the damage is usually less severe. The damage depends on many factors, such as frequency and duration of feeding time, sugary diet and quality of tooth brushing.
Here are the main causes in the etiology of dental caries and a few tips how to defend against them.
a) Cariogenic bacteria
In young children, bacterial flora and host defense systems are in the process of being developed. Streptococcus Mutans is viewed as the principal bacterial species that initiates dental caries. Several studies have shown that the age at which these bacteria are acquired by the child is a significant indicator of caries risk. Parents or guardians can transmit cavity-causing bacteria to their children through mouth kissing or tasting food before feeding.
Defensive method: brush your child’s teeth properly twice a day. Since brushing teeth needs fine motor skills of hands and fingers, children at the age of 7 and younger cannot brush their teeth thoroughly by themselves. Parents or guardians should brush the teeth for them.
Barrier: Tearing and crying might make brushing your child’s teeth a difficult task. Some parents struggle also because their parents (the grandparents) always want to spoil their children and let them off without brushing. Be patient and rigorously brush your child’s teeth. It is a great heathy gift you can give your child.
b) Fermentable carbohydrates
Fermentable carbohydrates work with bacteria to begin the decay process and eventually destroy teeth. They are in the obvious sugary foods, such as cookies, cakes, soft drinks and candy, but also in less obvious foods, such as bread, crackers, bananas and breakfast cereals. Very important to mention is that milk, the main diet of small children, contains lactose which is a type of fermentable sugar.
Defensive method: don’t allow your kids to get used to sugary foods too early. Don’t let your child go to bed with a bottle of milk. Give your child drinking water after drinking milk. Wean your child off bottled milk around 18 months.
c) A susceptible tooth and host
Tooth surfaces of newly erupted teeth are lesser resistance to caries lesions. That’s why children have more dental decay than adults. Tooth defect during tooth formation such as enamel hypoplasia is also a predisposing factor. However, enamel hypoplasia is not an excuse for children’s dental caries. It’s a reason why parents have to give more attention in preventing decay for your children.
Defensive method: avoid fermentable carbohydrates or never allow the teeth sunk in carbohydrate food for a period of time. Remove cariogenic bacteria by brushing properly twice a year. Routine dental check up with the dentist regularly and receive all preventive measures from the dentists.
Brought to you by:
Kamolchanok Diewsurin, DDS., MSc.
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