Dental Health Articles
The Most Prevalent Chronic Childhood Disease in California - Tooth Decay
By Nick K. Nguyen, DDS, APC
Children are susceptible to dental decay as soon as their first teeth appear, usually around the age of six months. If not treated and controlled, dental decay can trigger a domino effect of negative outcomes, including oral infections and extraction of baby teeth. Early loss of baby teeth could later contribute to the drifting of adult teeth causing a crowded and crooked smile that could have negative and lasting effects on a child's health, well-being, and self-confidence.
Dental decay is a multifactorial disease initiated primarily by the bacteria Streptococcus mutans. Dental decay in infants and young children is called baby bottle tooth decay. When children intake sweetened liquids such as juices and milk, this bacteria breaks down the sugars and produces acid which softens the teeth. Each time a child drinks these liquids, the acid attacks can last 20 minutes or longer. It is especially a bad idea to give a child these sweetened liquids prior to bedtimes and naps, as it allows the bacteria to do their damage for an extended amount of time.
The good news is that the most prevalent chronic childhood disease in California is a preventable one. Here are some tips to help reduce dental decay:
- For infants, replace sweetened liquids such as juices and milk in their bottles with water, especially before bedtimes and naps.
- Wipe your baby's gums with gauze following each feed. Begin brushing as soon as the first tooth has erupted, and start flossing when all the teeth have grown in.
- Limit the amount and frequency of simple sugar consumption found in candy and processed foods.
- Talk to your family dentist about the fluoride levels your child encounters and whether or not dietary supplements or fluoride dentifrices are needed.
- Start regular dental visits by the child's first birthday. Having a great relationship with your dental office can greatly reduce the chances of developing dental decay and gum disease and prevent small problems from becoming major ones.
Did you know?
- More than 40 % of children have tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten.
- Children between the ages of 2-5 who have not had a dental check-up in the last 12 months are more likely to have dental decay.