Early Childhood Caries

Early Childhood Caries, often referred to as ‘Baby Bottle Syndrome’, is caused by prolonged exposure of the baby or toddler’s teeth to drinks that contain sugar. Tooth decay can occur when the baby or toddler is put to bed with a bottle or sippy cup with milk or juice, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby. Even constant breastfeeding, sugary candies, or allowing your child to sip on milk or juice throughout the day can cause cavities in your child’s teeth.

Tooth decay can begin when cavity-causing bacteria is passed from the mother (or primary caregiver) to the infant. The bacteria is passed through the saliva. When the mother puts the baby’s feeding spoon in her mouth, cleans a pacifier in her mouth, or even blows on the baby’s food to cool it, the bacteria can be passed to the baby.

If your infant or toddler does not receive an adequate amount of fluoride, they are also at an increased risk for tooth decay.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend that your child has their first dental exam as soon as their first tooth erupts, or at least by their first birthday.  If you suspect your child has cavities, it is very important you see a dentist to have their teeth examined.  Although baby teeth eventually fall out, it is important to have the cavities repaired.  Cavities can cause your child pain and will also effect your child’s overall health and well-being.

Watch this video to learn more about Childhood Caries from Dr. Joni Richmond:

Cavities

Cavities, also referred to as tooth decay or caries, are caused by the bacteria in the plaque coating that builds up on our teeth when they are not properly cared for. The bacteria release acid each time we eat or drink (especially with sugary carbohydrates, like juice) and eventually form a hole, or cavity in the tooth. Cavities can be prevented by a healthy diet, diligent home care, and regular visits to the dentist. If you suspect your child has a cavity, it is important you bring them in for an exam. Depending on the size of the cavity, it may be treated with a filling, root canal, crown, or in some cases, an extraction.

Dental Emergencies

Swelling, trauma, or a bad toothache can all be considered dental emergencies.

If your child has a permanent (adult) tooth knocked out, place the tooth back into the socket immediately. If you cannot place the tooth back into the socket, place the tooth in a container of Hank’s Balanced Salt Solution, cold milk, or even your child’s saliva. Keep the root wet and do not touch it.   The tooth has the best prognosis if the tooth is immediately replaced in the socket and the child is seen by a dentist within one hour of the tooth being knocked out.  Primary (baby) teeth should never be replanted.

If your child has a dental emergency, call our office and we will do our best to accommodate your needs.

Gum Issues

Puffy, sore, or bleeding gums are caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar due to poor oral hygiene habits. It is important you assist and encourage meticulous home care for your child, as well as make sure they have a dental cleaning and check up every 6 months.

If left untreated, gum issues can become Gingivitis or even Periodontitis, which can lead to pain, sensitivity, loss of the permanent teeth, as well as other more serious health conditions.

Oral Habits

Oral Habits such as finger or pacifier-sucking, tongue-thrusting, teeth-grinding, and clenching can be detrimental to the development and health of your child’s teeth. If you believe your child possesses any of these habits, it is important you mention your concerns at their next dental check-up.

Swelling or Infection (Abscess)

A swelling in the gums is often caused by an infection from a nearby tooth. This infection is called an abscess. An abscessed tooth can be painful, or it may not hurt at all. In either scenario, it is important to contact a dentist right away. If left untreated, a dental abscess may damage the developing permanent teeth and in some cases, can cause a life-threatening infection of the face, neck, and brain.

Toothache

If your child complains of a toothache, it is important you call a dentist right away. A toothache is a sign of decay, infection, or trauma and should be addressed as soon as possible.

Ectopic Eruption

Occasionally, a permanent tooth begins to erupt before your child’s baby tooth falls out. It may come in behind or in front of the baby tooth. Ectopic eruption is a fairly common condition when children are transitioning from their baby teeth to their adult teeth. Encourage your child to wiggle out his/her baby tooth. If the permanent tooth is more than halfway in while the baby tooth is still present, your child may need help in getting the baby tooth out. Please call our office for an appointment.

If you believe your child is suffering from any of the dental conditions listed above, it is important you call a dentist. The explanations listed are only to inform you and not to assist you in making a diagnosis. Any suspected dental condition or problem should be assessed and diagnosed in person by a dentist.