Early Childhood Tooth Decay
Years ago it was fairly uncommon to find tooth decay in children, but within the last 5 to 10 years, I’ve seen an increasing number of young patients with cavities. This is disheartening because during the 1940’s and 1950’s we discovered the benefits of fluoride in the prevention of dental caries and implemented a nationwide program to add fluoride to the drinking water. It has been one of the great achievements of public community health, reducing tooth decay by up to 40%. Combined with educating patients in proper brushing and flossing technique, and the addition of fluoride to toothpastes and oral rinses, we have significantly reduced dental caries. So why the sudden increase in cavities, especially in children?
Young children are particularly vulnerable because their enamel is not fully developed. They are unable to adequately brush their teeth because they lack necessary motor skills, and must depend on a parent or caregiver. Modern living has seen an explosion in prepackaged and processed foods and drinks that often contain high amounts of sugars, which cavity-causing germs consume for fuel.
Infants and toddlers who go to sleep with a bottle of milk can develop a severe form of rampant tooth decay known as baby bottle syndrome. Dairy milk and formula are high in sugars that pool in the mouth as the child falls asleep. Giving them fluoridated tap water instead, before bedtime, is a much better alternative.
School cafeterias aren't particularly known for their healthy options either, and many have vending machines loaded with sugary snacks and drinks. This is changing, but at a snail's pace. The most important thing to arm yourself with is knowledge. Educate yourself. Learn proper brushing and flossing and teach your kids how to do it. Talk to your dentist and ask questions, especially if your child had several cavities after the last checkup.
Here is an American Dental Association website I recommend if you need information on this and any other dental topic:
Remember to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes... and don't forget to floss.