Children’s Dental Health Month-Early Childhood Caries

February 22, 2018

 

In honor of Children’s Dental Health month, we’ve chosen to highlight the childhood disease of Early Childhood Caries (ECC) or baby bottle decay.  ECC is an infectious disease that can affect any child and can begin as early as the eruption of your child’s first tooth (around 6 months old). The disease process begins with bacteria. As foods enter the oral cavity bacteria break down carbohydrates and sugars and secrete acid on the teeth. The acid drains teeth of the minerals that keep them strong, and if left to continue will cause tooth decay. ECC is the most common chronic childhood disease in the US. It is 5 times more prevalent than asthma and 4 times more common than early childhood obesity. More than half of all children in our nation have cavities by the time they enter the second grade. ECC is a significant oral and overall health problem in our country that affects many children.

Impact
“They’re just baby teeth, so it doesn’t matter if they have cavities.” This is a common misconception we as dental professionals hear, but it could not be farther from the truth. ECC can cause serious problems down the road for a child’s oral health. First and foremost, children who are affected by decay often experience a great deal of pain and discomfort. This discomfort often causes children to act out and distract them from learning, which may set them back academically. They may also find it difficult to pronounce letters and words correctly. In severe cases, a child may even suffer poor nutrient intake if they cannot properly chew food. When a baby tooth is lost prematurely and the adult tooth is not ready to come in , the proper space for that permanent tooth is lost due to the movement of the other teeth in that area. Usually the dentist will have to figure out away to keep that space open and ready for the permanent tooth.  Suffering from ECC can also have a significant impact on a child’s emotional health. Many children become embarrassed or self-conscious about their teeth and may not even want to smile anymore. So if ECC is such a prevalent disease that has serious consequences for our children, how do we prevent it?

Prevention
As stated earlier, bacteria is what starts the disease process of ECC and they feed on the foods we consume, thus nutrition plays an important role in prevention. Whether bottle or breast-feeding, unrestricted, at will intake of sugary liquids (including milk) throughout the day or while in bed should be discouraged. Babies should not be put to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or fruit juice. In addition to nutrition, good oral health habits are equally important in preventing decay. For infants, gums should be wiped with a clean wet washcloth after every feeding. After the eruption of the first tooth, brushing with an age appropriate toothbrush twice daily is recommended. If you live in an area without fluoridated water, ask your child’s physician or dentist about a fluoride supplement. There are chewable tablets or drops available upon request.  Fluoride toothpaste is not recommended until age 3 to be sure children don’t swallow too much. After age 3 or when your child can spit out toothpaste, the switch should be made to a fluoridated option. At the Hadlock Dental Center we see children of all ages and we recommend seeing children at or near their first birthday for their first dental check-up, so that if cavities are present they will be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

 

We would love to partner with you to ensure your child’s dental wellness. If you would like to schedule your little ones’ first dental visit or they are due for a 6 month check-up, please give us a call!

 


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