Preventing early childhood dental decay

Preventing early childhood dental decay

Early childhood dental decay is a severe form of tooth decay that affects the teeth of infants and young children. It is found usually on the upper front teeth but other teeth may also be affected.

Tooth decay happens when germs in the mouth create a sticky covering called plaque on the tooth surface. These germs feed on sugars in food and drinks and produce an acid that damages the tooth surface. Over time, this acid eats away at the surface of the tooth, creating holes or ‘cavities’.

Tooth decay can cause pain and infection. It can even affect children’s growth. Severe decay in baby teeth can have serious consequences for your child’s nutrition, speech, and jaw development.

What are the signs of tooth decay?

Early tooth decay can be hard to spot. The first sign of tooth decay is when teeth develop a dull, white band along the gum line (the area at the base of the teeth, near the gums). You might also see brown spots on the teeth, and the gums might be red and swollen.

With more advanced tooth decay, you might notice blackened holes in the teeth or broken teeth. If the decay has led to an infection, you might notice lumps or pimples on the gums or swelling around the gums and face.

When does decay start?

Early childhood dental decay can start as soon as the tooth appears in the mouth.

Whitish marks on the tooth surface close to the gum line may be an early sign of tooth decay. At this early ‘white spot’ stage, the decay process can be stopped and/or reversed by the use of fluoride.

If it is left untreated it can quickly progress to become a hole that will need dental treatment. This more advanced stage of decay will have a yellow-brown or black appearance on teeth.

How do young children get dental decay?

Decay is more likely to occur in infants or toddlers who:

• fall asleep sucking a bottle filled with a sugary liquid or a dummy dipped in a sweet substance such as honey

• have prolonged (more than one year) on-demand breastfeeding

• get poor oral hygiene

Frequent snacking can also contribute to tooth decay because there is less time between eating to allow teeth to recover from plaque acid attacks.

What parents should know about dental decay?

Children are not born with decay-causing bacteria in the mouth.

These bacteria are passed to the child by their parents or caregivers through food tasting and/or through cleaning a dummy or teat in their mouths.

By keeping their mouth healthy, parents can reduce the risk of decay in themselves and their children.

Oral hygiene should start from birth, even before teeth erupt (come through). Start by cleaning your child’s gums after feeds and then start cleaning teeth as soon as they come through.

What are healthy foods and drinks to prevent tooth decay?

Cleaning teeth isn’t a guarantee against tooth decay. The types of food and drink you give your child also affect dental health and the development of tooth decay.

Babies under 4-6 months

Newborns and young babies need only breastmilk or formula.

Babies over 6 months

When your breastfed or formula-fed baby is older than six months, she can also have small amounts of water. Avoid giving your baby sweetened milk, fruit juice or cordials.

Older babies, children and teenagers

Children need a wide variety of healthy foods and snacks. Foods and drinks that are low in sugar are best. Avoid giving your children sweet biscuits or cakes. If your child does eat something sweet, drinking a glass of water or eating tooth-friendly food afterward can reduce the amount of acid on your child’s teeth.


We love our patients and love to help them form healthy dental life that will last them a lifetime. Growing Smiles is a pediatric dentist in AnnaRichardson, Plano, Garland, Murphy we have Pediatric Services in Texas: Early Childhood CarePreventive CareGeneral TreatmentsSedation DentistrySpecial Needs DentistryEmergency Service and Orthodontic (Braces & Invisalign) For more information call us to answer all of your questions so get an appointment today.