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Early Childhood Decay

Early Childhood Decay

Black spots, holes and decay of teeth in children below 6 years is called as early childhood caries. It is one of the most common and neglected childhood diseases. It usually starts as a small white or brown spot on the tooth surface. This type of decay initially involves the upper front teeth and progresses rapidly to back and the lower teeth. At very initial stage, it looks like white spot in the upper front teeth along the gum margins later on the tooth decay progresses, making it large hole and subsequent complete destruction of the crown. 

Common risk factors and causes

  • The most common cause of early decay of milk teeth is the use of bottle for feeding milk for prolonged period or while sleeping.
  • Consumption of sweet and sticky eatables such as chocolates, toffees, candies, cakes and cookies also increases the likelihood.
  • Apart from sweet and sticky foods, improper and irregular brushing can also lead to early childhood caries. It is also seen in children on long term medications like sweetened syrups etc.
  • Frequent consumption of aerated drinks and canned juices also increases the risk of early childhood caries.
  • Taking too long to consume the meals
  • Frequent eating of junk foods (between meals) instead of main meals
  • Not rinsing the mouth thoroughly after having meals

Common signs and symptoms

  • Initially the children complain of food getting stuck between the teeth. Sometimes they may also complain of sensitivity to cold and sweets.
  • Progression of this disease can result in pain in teeth and swelling of the gums in the adjacent region.
  • Further neglect can lead to formation of pus and swelling on the face.
  • The child may find difficulty in eating leading to deterioration of general health and growth of the body.
  • Child will get irritated and not get enough sleep.
  • Underlying tooth bud of permanent teeth too gets affected.

Precautions to be followed for Prevention of Early Childhood Decay

  • Reduction in frequency of sweets and sticky food.
  • Not putting the milk bottle/breast milk in child’s mouth during sleep.
  • Feeding when the child is fully awake followed by rinsing with water
  • The gum pads can be cleaned with help of soft cotton cloth. It's also important to clean the tongue.
  • Maintenance of baby’s oral hygiene from the time first tooth erupts in mouth  (around the age of 6-7 months).
  • The dentist will advice for professional topical fluoride, if they are required
  • At home, a small quantity of fluoride toothpaste (equal to size of pea) can be used for teeth brushing for children above 3 years.
  • We should make sure that each side of each tooth be cleaned while brushing.

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