Tooth decay  is the most chronic childhood infectious disease. It is sometimes called  baby bottle tooth decay or nursing caries. When it is not prevented, tooth decay can  cause pain, be expensive to treat and result in life threatening infections.
tooth decay


Tooth decay can begin as early as when the first tooth erupts and therefore it is essential to begin healthy dental habits early.


What causes tooth decay in children


It occurs when the child’s mouth is infected with an acid producing bacteria. Parents and caregivers can pass on this infection to babies through saliva. The bacteria can spread by sharing  cups and spoons with the saliva of an infected person. You can  also spread the bacteria  by tasting food before giving it to the baby or by cleaning the baby’s pacifier in the parent or caregiver’s mouth.


It also develops when  the child’s teeth and gum are exposed to  any liquid other than water for a long period of time or throughout the day.  Sugar in food  changes into acid by bacteria in the mouth. The acid dissolves the outer part of the teeth , causing tooth decay.


Other ways tooth decay may occur in children includes :

  • children going to bed with formula, milk, juice, sugar drinks or sugar-water
  • children drinking anything other than water from a sippy cup or bottle during the day or at night

What are the signs of tooth decay ?


It first appears as white spots on the gum line on the upper front teeth. Without proper equipments , these spots are hard to see even by a dentist or child’s doctor. Treatment is essential to prevent the decay from spreading and causing more damage.


How to prevent tooth decay in children


These tips may help prevent tooth decay in children.

  • take care of your own oral health before the baby is born. It is important to see a dentist during pregnancy
  • take care of your baby’s teeth whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle feed.
    • birth to 12 months -keep the baby’s mouth clean by cleaning his mouth with a clean baby wash cloth. Once teeth starts to erupt, brush the teeth gently with a soft baby brush with a smear of tooth paste designed for children
    • 12 to 36 months – brush the child’s teeth twice a day  for about 2 minutes. The best time to brush is after breakfast and before bedtime
  • do not put a child to bed with a bottle or food
  • do not use a bottle or sippy  cup as a pacifier
  • check if your water contains fluoride. If it doesn’t contain fluoride, let your child’s doctor know. He may prescribe a fluoride supplement.  Fluoride protects the teeth from decay.
  • limit the amount of sweets and sticky foods that your child eats
  • serve juice only during meals or not at all
  • teach your child to drink from a regular cup as soon as possible preferable around 12 to 15 months.  It will less likely  cause liquid to collect around the teeth
  • get your child to see a dentist before age 1.


Content Sources
How to prevent tooth decay in children. American Academy of pediatrics. Accessed January 26, 2016

preventing tooth decay in children. WebMD. Accessed January 26, 2016

Keeping your child’s teeth healthy. Nemour’s Foundation. Accessed January 26, 2016

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