Tooth decay, also known as dental caries or cavities, pose a severe oral health threat. This condition leads to pain, speech difficulty, and infections, among other possible issues for people of all ages. Children, for obvious reasons, are much more susceptible to cavities and/or tooth decay.
What causes pediatric tooth decay? What can you do treat and prevent it in your child? Continue reading to learn more.
Pediatric Tooth Decay and Symptoms
Tooth decay involves the destruction of the hard outer layer of the tooth called enamel. It is more than that, though. The dentin, pulp, and bones around an affected tooth may not be spared by the problem. Decay progresses to a stage where you develop holes in the teeth that can lead to the need for Root Canal Therapy.
Signs and Symptoms To Look For In A Child
The symptoms you will notice in your child will depend on the stage of the damage. The most noticeable symptom is a pain. At the early stage of tooth decay, you may notice white spots on the affected teeth. This a clear sign of the beginning of enamel destruction. From that point, small holes called cavities form and get larger as the problem worsens. In severe cases, your child’s tooth may turn brown or black.
A good way to identify the tooth that is infected and decaying is to ask your child to show you where the pain is coming from. Keep in mind though that no pain at all is not an indicator that everything is okay. Sensitivity to cold, hot or sweetened drink is also an indicator.
Unfortunately, it is possible that your child might not report any symptoms until the problem is detected during a dental visit.
The Rise in Pediatric Tooth Decay
Pediatric tooth decay cases have been observed to be on the rise. Dentists are now seeing children as young as two years old presenting with tooth decay. Between 13 and 20 percent of children aged 5-19 have at least one decayed tooth that has not been treated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Pediatric tooth decay now ranks among the most common chronic childhood disorders in the United States.
What Causes Tooth Decay in Children?
Researchers have identified a group of bacteria known as Streptococci mutans as being behind pediatric tooth decay. These organisms are responsible for the mineral loss that contributes to the damage. They cause the loss of calcium and phosphate from the enamel and dentin. These bacteria mainly thrive on remnants of carbohydrate-rich foods, such as candy, cake, and soda, on the teeth. Plaque can develop over time, thus enabling the bacteria to cause further damage.
Children on a diet that is high in sugars and starches are at a significant risk of tooth decay. Poor oral hygiene also increases risk.
Treatment and Prevention
The approach to treating pediatric tooth decay depends on age and symptoms, among other considerations. But treatment is mostly similar to that of adults. It typically involves removing the defective tooth and replacing it with a filling, also known as restorations. You have the options of direct restorations and indirect restorations.
Your child only requires a visit to the clinic to have a filling placed directly into a prepared and cleaned hole with direct restorations. Indirect restorations, on the other hand, involve the use of restorations, such as bridges, inlays, and onlays, fabricated outside the mouth. These require more than one visit.
Emphasis is usually more on preventive measures, however. These include:
- Brushing your child’s teeth at least twice daily or supervising the process.
- Flossing the teeth daily, if older than two.
- Providing a balanced diet and limiting the intake of sugar or sticky foods and drinks
- Assessing your child’s teeth every month for spots or lines
- Going for periodic checkups with a pediatric dentist
- Placing dental sealants or fluoride varnish on your child’s teeth
The natural sweetener Xylitol has been found to also help against Streptococci mutans. This is for mothers and caregivers, but the benefits can extend to newborns.
It is essential to visit a dentist by the time your baby turns one to detect early signs of tooth decay.
Our Harrisburg NC Dentist Office
To learn more about dental treatments from Icard & Strein Family Dentistry, or to schedule an appointment, call our Harrisburg, NC dental office today at 704.455.5003.