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Childhood Risk Of Tooth Decay And How To Identify It

Baby with open mouth

Tooth decay is the leading dental health condition in America today. Patients of all ages experience the breakdown of healthy enamel under the assault of acid, sugary foods, and bacteria. Fruit juices, raisins, milk, bread, and cereal can all be healthy additions to our diet. However, without proper hygiene, the carbs they contain can be the foundation of serious oral health issues. Cavities can be treated, but it’s important to catch them early before they develop into full-fledged holes in our enamel.

Childhood Risk Of Tooth Decay And How To Identify It

All of us wage a battle against dental bacteria and tooth decay with every passing day. Children can be particularly at risk if their oral hygiene and diet aren’t carefully monitored. The following signs can indicate that a child’s at increased risk of developing cavities:

  • Boosted levels of streptococcus mutans, the bacteria responsible for decay
  • Diets with high levels of starch and sugar
  • No access to fluoride-enriched water from city water systems
  • Insufficient oral hygiene practices
  • Reduced saliva flow causing dry mouth

Proper hydration, fluoride, and low starch diets are important to help keep your children’s mouths healthy. If your child is beginning to develop cavities, you may be able to catch them in time to prevent major damage. Each of the following symptoms is an indicator that your child may be struggling with cavities and decay:

  • White Spot Lesions – These white streaks or lines in the tooth are signs that its enamel is breaking down. Teeth often become more sensitive when these lesions are present.
  • Brown Spots – When cavities first begin to form, their target teeth often will develop brown spots.
  • Sensitivity – Temperature sensitivity and pain that appears in response to eating sugary or acidic foods is common.
  • Black Spots or Pitting on the Tooth – At this point, it’s all about damage control. When you spot black holes on the teeth, it’s a clear indication that a cavity has developed.

These are steps you can take to help your child avoid developing cavities. It all begins with a consistent regime of dental hygiene. Ensure that your child brushes their teeth morning and night. Most dentists recommend brushing your teeth with the child to ensure they’re doing it properly. Using mouthwash and floss helps ensure that their teeth are receiving excellent care.

Some Final Tips For Protecting Children’s Teeth

Taking care of your child’s teeth means starting as soon as the first tooth erupts. Each day you should brush the gum and tooth (or teeth) with a rice-sized bit of toothpaste. Once they’re over three, you can use a pea-sized portion. Starting at age 2, it’s important that you begin flossing their teeth daily. You should never set your baby to bed with a bottle. If you must, ensure it’s only got water in it. You should also avoid sharing utensils with your infant. This can transfer bacteria from parent to child. If you have any additional information requests, be sure to reach out to your dental care provider. 

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Dr. Marian Bradford Dr. Marian Bradford brings over 20 years of experience as a Dr. of Dental Surgery to the practice at Premier Dental of South Orange County. As a researcher, educator, and clinician, she brings a full range of services to patients in the Aliso Viejo, CA area, including restoration and cosmetic dentistry care.
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