What are early childhood caries?
Early Childhood Caries (ECC) is a serious infectious disease that causes tooth decay and loss and, when left untreated, can have long-term emotional and intellectual development. ECC refers to cavities that develop in children under six years of age. It can be very painful, result in the premature loss of baby teeth, and compromise the development of permanent teeth.
ECC can develop rapidly in teeth and usually begin to form in children around six months of age. They often occur on the upper front teeth and are caused by frequent consumption of sugary products. After children consume these products, a sugary residue is often left in the mouth for many hours. The bacteria that cause cavities to feed on this sticky residue. Even nutritious foods and drinks like bananas, breast milk and fruit juice have natural sugars that can contribute to cavities.
Symptoms of early childhood caries:
1. White spots around the gums, which can be difficult to detect. These may evolve into brown spots and possibly broken teeth.
2. Loss of teeth, which can cause trouble speaking and eating, affecting the overall health and development of your child.
4. Pain, which can affect eating, sleeping and learning.
5. Infections and fever.
6. Crooked permanent teeth, which can cause confidence issues.
ECC is preventable. Good oral hygiene, regular dental care, good nutrition, and proper feeding is essential to the prevention of ECC. Steps to prevent the development of ECC:
Your child should have their first dental appointment within six months of development of teeth. Your dentist will advise you on risk factors for developing ECC and give detailed information on the risk profile of your child and how to prevent ECC.
After feedings, use a soft toothbrush and water to brush your baby’s gums from birth.
When the first tooth develops, use a soft toothbrush or washcloth twice daily but ideally after feedings. Use a thin layer of toothpaste for children under two years of age. Use a pea-sized amount for children between 2 and five years of age.
Teach your growing child good oral hygiene habits.
Limit your child’s consumption of sugary drinks and foods and feed your child a balanced diet, following dietary guidelines.
Do not give your child a bottle of any sweet liquid before bed. This can be difficult for children under eight months. In these cases, dilute the liquid with water until your child is only drinking water before bed.
As early as possible, serve sugary drinks in a cup, not a bottle. This will prevent liquids from festering in the teeth.
Because parents can share bacteria with their children through sharing meals, parents must practice good oral hygiene or not share utensils, foods and drinks.
If not identified and treated early on, ECC can require significant and costly dental work, including anesthesia and surgery, in very young children. Severe ECC (S-ECC) can lead to abscesses and bone damage and may require hospitalization, antibiotics, and tooth extractions.
For more information, schedule an appointment today.