Tooth decay is the destruction or breakdown of tooth enamel, the hard outer coating of the teeth. Despite being largely preventable, tooth decay is a chronic disease in Australia. Recent research reveals that 1 in 3 Australian adults have untreated tooth decay. By five years of age, 1 in 3 children aged 5-6 has already had tooth decay in a baby tooth.
What causes teeth to decay in young children? The importance of kids dental health
Because tooth enamel is considerably thinner and softer on baby teeth, it places them at a higher risk of decay.
There is a common misconception that it doesn’t matter if young children lose their baby teeth early as they will be replaced anyway. Primary teeth help children speak and eat. But did you know they also act as placeholders for permanent teeth? The early loss of baby teeth can lead to potential spacing issues as the permanent teeth erupt, which is why kids’ dental health is so important from the get-go.
So what causes teeth to decay?
Bacteria present in the mouth feed on sugars from food and drinks such as cereals, bread, cake, milk, fruit juices and soda turning them into acids. The combination of bacteria, acid, food and saliva forms a sticky film (plaque) that coats the teeth. Over time, the acids eat away at the tooth enamel, causing small holes or cavities.
Which children are at risk of tooth decay?
Since all children have bacteria in their mouths, they’re all at risk of tooth decay. However, the following scenarios could put your kid’s dental health at greater risk:
- Poor oral hygiene
- A diet high in sugar and starches
- High levels of cavity-causing bacteria
- Less than the average supply of saliva
- Water supply with limited or no fluoride in it
Signs of early childhood tooth decay
Cavities occur over time and can be challenging to spot in the early stages. Tooth decay often progresses in a child as follows:
- White spots form on the affected teeth showing that the enamel is starting to break down. Tooth sensitivity may also occur.
- An early cavity appears on the tooth and has a light brown colour.
- The cavity deepens and turns a darker brown.
How is tooth decay diagnosed in a child?
A children’s dentist can usually diagnose tooth decay based on:
- An examination of their mouth
- Their complete history
- Dental x-rays
So knowing what causes teeth to decay, the question is, how can parents protect their children’s teeth?
Our dentist’s recommendation to parents: take advantage of children’s dentistry from when a child’s first tooth appears and no later than a year old. Parents can also help prevent tooth decay by introducing healthy eating and brushing early. Regular checks with the dentist help spot the signs of early tooth decay.
Kids’ dental health matters to us
We’re passionate about children’s dentistry and dedicated to educating parents and their children about preventive oral care. Whether it’s your child’s first dental visit or you’re looking for a gentle, child-friendly dentist, at Dental Excellence, we ensure a calm and pleasant experience for every child and their parents. Why not schedule a children’s appointment by calling us on (02) 6188 7293 today.
Teeth.org.au – Tooth Decay