When the bacteria streptococcus mutans have had an opportunity to remain unchecked, tooth decay can occur. It often begins with a thin layer of sticky biofilm known as plaque, which can harden into tartar over time. Even those who brush diligently can develop this problem if they don’t floss thoroughly as well. This is often the case where children are involved. They’re still learning to care for their teeth, and their imperfect practice can lead to the development of cavities. Thankfully, there are numerous effective steps you can take to prevent them from getting worse if you can identify them early.
A common factor seen in cases of childhood tooth decay is the presence of sugary foods in the diet. While some of the things at fault may be unsurprising, such as soda, candy, and cake, others may catch you off-guard. Bread, milk, and even non-sugary cereal may be at fault. All of these contain natural or added sugars that contribute to the growth and flourishing of streptococcus mutans. If not thoroughly removed by brushing and flossing each evening and night, they can develop plaque and produce corrosive acids that wear away at the enamel. Those most at risk of developing cavities include those with:
The first stage of dental decay is the appearance of white spots on the teeth. These white spots indicate areas of demineralization from weakened enamel. Your child may report that their teeth hurt when they eat foods that are hot, cold, or particularly acidic. Once the cavity advances these white spots will begin to take on a light brown color, shifting to black as it gets worse.
Surprisingly, cavities don’t always have symptoms that your child will report. While sensitivity and dental pain are common, the cavity may develop without your child experiencing either of these. In these cases, only a visual examination by you or the dentist will reveal them.
Treatment of these conditions is based on the general health of your child, their age, and the symptoms they’re reporting. The severity of the condition also has a role to play. The most common approach is the removal of the decayed tissue and replacement with restoration material. This can include metals, amalgam, composite resins, or even porcelain.
Your dental provider will be able to point you at abundant information about preventing tooth decay in your children. They’ll give you things to watch for, and tips to help protect their teeth. They may also suggest certain products such as fluoridated toothpaste, mouthwash, and flossing tools that are easy for children to use. Protecting your children’s teeth is important, even before they begin developing adult teeth. Baby, or primary, teeth are essential in healthy jaw and bite development, and aid in adult teeth coming in straight and properly aligned. Call your dentist for help preventing tooth decay today!