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How Does Tooth Decay Develop?

Tooth decay is caused by the presence of bacteria in the mouth. When babies are born they do not have any of these bacteria, but they are passed on by parents or caregivers kissing their babies or sharing utensils with their children. If the parent or caregiver has a lot of cavities or gum disease then they’ll have more bacteria in their mouth, and greater numbers of these bacteria will be passed on to the baby.

If a baby’s mouth and teeth are not cleaned every day, then the bacteria in the mouth will feed on liquids fed to the baby, creating acid as a byproduct. These liquids include any containing sugars, such as formula, milk and fruit juices. The acid produced by the bacteria will continually attack the teeth, eventually breaking down the tooth surfaces and causing decay.

Early Childhood Tooth Decay

Early childhood tooth decay can affect milk or primary teeth, and can occur due to the following conditions:

  • The child’s mouth has not been cleaned each day.
  • The child has been given a bottle filled with sweetened liquid at bedtime and is able to sip on it during the night. This continually feeds the bacteria in the mouth so they can cause repeated acid attacks.
  • The child is allowed to walk around with a sippy cup or bottle containing sugary liquids during the day.
  • The child is given a sippy cup or bottle containing a sweet drink as a pacifier.

What Does Early Childhood Tooth Decay Look like?

If your children’s teeth are beginning to decay then you might notice the front teeth develop chalky white patches. It doesn’t take very long for these white patches to develop into brown decayed areas as the teeth become infected. Untreated tooth decay can lead to abscesses developing, and the teeth can become broken down.

Consequences of Tooth Decay and Early Tooth Loss

Tooth decay is uncomfortable for anyone at any age, and it can be unpleasant for young children to experience pain through having an infected tooth, or to have to experience a dental abscess. This can lead to decreased appetite due to painful chewing, and the child might have difficulty sleeping due to the pain and discomfort.

If baby teeth are lost too soon then it can lead to speech problems developing, and may mean the adult teeth will come through crowded. This is because the baby teeth help hold open the correct amount of space so adult teeth can push through the gums without having to twist or move position to find enough space to do so.

Learn how Tooth Decay can be easily prevented


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