Tooth decay in toddlers is referred to as baby bottle tooth decay. When the enamel or the protective layer outside the tooth are eaten away by bacteria, it leads to tooth decay.
It is caused when sugars, either natural (in milk, fruit juices) or artificially added in your toddler’s food, cling to your toddler’s teeth. The bacteria present in their mouth feed on this sugar and produces acid which results in tooth decay in your toddlers.
The Effects of Tooth Decay:
Tooth decay is a common chronic illness that develops during early childhood and impacts your toddler’s overall health and quality of life. The short-term, as well as long term effects of tooth decay in toddlers, are listed below:
• Pain in tooth
• Bad breath
• Loss of Appetite/lack of interest in feeding
• Mouth Infections
• Misalignment of teeth
• Speech problems in future
• Problems in your toddler’s jaw development
• Health problems which might affect the height and weight of the toddler (even in adulthood)
• Damage to permanent teeth that will develop in future
It is difficult to detect tooth decay early due to lack of clear signs.
• The very first sign of tooth decay is when a dull white band forms at the base of your toddler’s teeth, especially on their front teeth or upper incisors. However, in this stage, the decay can be undone through the right treatment.
• When the tooth decay increases, you will find brown spots on your toddler’s teeth due to enamel corrosion.
• At an advanced stage, you will find blackened areas on your toddlers’ teeth and their gums will be deep red and swollen.
How to Prevent Tooth Decay in your Toddler:
Start taking care of your toddler’s oral hygiene before their teeth appear: Even before your toddler’s teeth develop, you can take care of their oral hygiene. After breastfeeding your infant, you can use a clean washcloth and water to wipe their gums.
Regularly Clean your Toddler’s Teeth and gums:
You need to clean your toddler’s teeth at least twice a day; once in the morning and in the evening.
Use a small and soft toothbrush specially designed for children and brush their teeth in gentle circles. Till your toddler is 18 months old, only use water to clean their teeth and once they are older you can use a toothbrush.
Always go for low fluoride toothpaste and use an only pea-size amount of toothpaste for your toddler.
Avoid giving them sugary drinks/foods: The bacteria present in the mouth usually feeds on the sugar or starch to produce acids that eat away the tooth enamel.
Giving your baby sweet foods/ drinks are good occasionally, you should avoid feeding them sugary foods/drinks on a regular basis.
When your toddler consumes too much sugar the acid produced by the bacteria increases in the mouth and leads to tooth decay.
Avoid sharing spoons or utensils with your toddler: Parents usually have the tendency to taste their baby’s food like soup or puree before feeding them.
However, it is important that you do not feed your baby food with the same spoon or utensils you have used. Sharing utensils will pass on bacteria from your saliva to your toddler’s mouth and put them at a higher risk of tooth decay.
Do not dip your toddler’s pacifier in anything sweet, like honey or juice. Make sure their pacifier is always clean because harmful bacteria can enter your toddler’s mouth through pacifiers.
Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle: Never put your baby to bed with a bottle containing juice or milk as it can cause your baby’s upper incisors or teeth to decay due to the constant exposure to sugar. Putting your baby to bed with a bottle can also cause choking.
Even after taking all the above precautions, it is always a good idea to take your toddler for a dental check-up before his/her first birthday. The dentist will recommend the correct techniques of brushing and flossing your toddler’s teeth and will closely examine your toddler’s teeth.
1. When the bacteria present in your toddler’s mouth feed on the sugar present on their teeth and produces acids, it corrodes your toddler’s tooth enamel, i.e., the protective layer surrounding their tooth, it is referred to as tooth decay.
2. The short-term effects of tooth decay in your toddler are bad breath, loss of appetite, tooth pain and mouth infections.
3. The long- term effects of tooth decay in your toddler are cavities, speech problems, misalignment of teeth, problems in the development of permanent teeth and jaw.
4. Once your toddler starts teething, brush their teeth twice a day with a small and soft toothbrush and a low fluoride toothpaste.
5. Avoid feeding your toddler sugary / starchy foods and sharing spoons or utensils with them. And never put your baby to bed with a bottle containing milk or juice, as the constant exposure of sugar can cause tooth decay in toddlers.