It’s widely assumed that young children don’t need to go to the dentist because they will be losing their baby teeth anyway. However, childhood tooth decay can start even before the first teeth have fully come in. Once tooth decay has set in, it can make your child’s permanent teeth more susceptible to tooth decay.
What Causes Tooth Decay in Children?
The same sugary sweets and drinks that cause tooth decay in adults can lead to tooth decay in children as young as toddlers. Since children are typically eating and drinking a lot more sugary things than adults, their chances of developing tooth decay are heightened. Some surprising things that contain excess sugar include:
- Fruit juices (even natural juices with no added sugar)
- Flavored water
- Processed baby food
- Toddler biscuits, crackers, and cookies
So, the first line of defense against childhood tooth decay is to limit sweetened drinks and food.
A Scientific Development Against Childhood Tooth Decay
Recently, a new scientific development was made with insights into the causes of childhood tooth decay. Bacteria have long been recognized as a cause of tooth decay. But in recent findings at the University of Pennsylvania, another culprit has been found. Candida albicans, a fungus, has been shown to interact with bacteria in the mouth to form a biofilm on the surface of the teeth. Essentially, the bacterial yeast is utilized by the fungus as a way to form a molecular bond that attaches itself to the tooth surface.
While this sounds alarming, it’s simply one more way that childhood tooth decay can take hold in the early years. The good news is that those same researchers are working on developing a means by which the bond can’t take place. Without the yeast, the fungus can’t form that biofilm that causes tooth decay and vice versa. Current methods of bacteria control include the use of fluoride in water, toothpaste, and mouthwashes. However, bacteria quickly multiply, and the oral cavity can be re-infected with bacteria quite readily. While oral bacteria is difficult to control without severe curtailment of sugary foods and drinks, the fungus can be targeted instead. The researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are working hard to develop methodologies that will target the fungi rather than the bacteria. Before coming to market, they will, of course, need to go through clinical trials.
How Can Parents Help Avoid Childhood Tooth Decay?
Left untreated, childhood tooth decay can become so severe that medical intervention is required, often in the form of oral surgery. While science is working on new ways to prevent and treat childhood tooth decay, it’s important for parents to work with dentists in Washington D.C. to avoid childhood tooth decay at home. Here are some suggestions:
- Offer water instead of fruit juices for hydration.
- Avoid offering lemon or lime flavored water, which can lead to tooth enamel erosion.
- Wean youngsters off pacifiers as soon as reasonably possible.
- Avoid offering candies and sweet pastries as much as possible.
- Teach, encourage and monitor safe tooth brushing techniques.
Please call us today to schedule a dentist appointment for your child. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.