What causes tooth decay in toddlers

Tooth decay refers to the enamel breaking down or getting damaged. Enamel is a hard substance, but acids can eat away at it. 

Decay can affect any toddler. Left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. Premature loss of baby teeth can cause the remaining teeth to move, fill the empty spots, and compromise a child’s bite. 

Baby teeth play an important role in your child's oral development. Understanding the potential causes of tooth decay is the first step to preventing it. 

Possible tooth decay causes

Young children have thinner and softer enamel, making them more vulnerable to developing decay and cavities. But there are several potential reasons toddlers can become affected by tooth decay. Here are some of them.

  • Sugary or starchy diet. A diet high in sugar and starch can increase a child’s risk of developing tooth decay. These types of food often stick and cling to the teeth. They can be hard to remove, buying time for harmful bacteria to feed on them and produce acids that beat down the enamel. 
  • Frequent snacking. Grazing throughout the day can also make toddlers more prone to decay. Plaque forms naturally in the mouth and can build up faster with constant snacking. This bacteria-laden film coats the enamel and can harden when not removed. 
  • Prolonged use of baby bottles. Extended exposure to formula or milk can also make the enamel more vulnerable to decay. Letting bottles stay in a child’s mouth while napping or sleeping can cause milk to gather and attract harmful bacteria. Acids can wreak havoc on the enamel, with salivary flow reduced during sleep.
  • Sharing food or utensils. Acid-producing bacteria can also be passed through saliva when parents or caregivers share food or utensils with children.
  • Poor hygiene habits. Removing plaque and food deposits starves and keeps harmful bacteria from multiplying. On the other hand, poor oral hygiene can foster growth of bad bacteria.

Signs of tooth decay in toddlers

Tooth decay can appear different for each child. Sometimes, it's hard to spot and can only be identified by using equipment at the dental office. There are also instances when there are no symptoms. But here are some initial signs you can look out for:

  • White spots on the teeth
  • Light brown to black discoloration
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Pain in the mouth

Routine dental exams allow your dentist to know if your child has or is showing signs of tooth decay. The sooner the problem is detected, the simpler the treatments are too.

Can tooth decay among toddlers be prevented?

Yes, tooth decay in toddlers can be prevented. Here are habits that can help keep it at bay:

  • Remove the bottle from your child’s mouth after feeding.
  • Avoid dipping pacifiers in sweets.
  • Limit the intake of sugary and starchy food.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Offer various foods, including fruits and vegetables.
  • Clean your child’s teeth and gums, especially before bedtime.

If you see any sign of tooth decay in your child’s teeth, don’t hesitate to contact your dentist immediately. With proper care, your child can keep their teeth strong and healthy.

If your child needs an oral exam or dental hygiene cleaning in Lethbridge, Alberta, contact us at (403) 382-2273. We will do our best to book it as soon as possible.

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