I see many pediatric patients with early childhood caries every week. Majority of the parents are unaware that milk teeth are important and losing milk teeth prematurely can cause many dental issues in a child in the long term. Hence, as a Pediatric Dentist it is my endeavor to create awareness amongst parents about importance of milk teeth and maintaining a good oral hygiene in early childhood.
Early Childhood Caries (ECC) is a type of tooth decay that affects baby teeth, resulting in early tooth loss for children under the age of 6 years. It is also known as Baby Bottle Caries, Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, Nursing caries etc. It is a disease seen in toddlers and young children. Most often it appears in the upper front teeth but can also affect the other teeth.
Initially these appear as white spots near the gum line. These spots are hard to see at first, but if caught early can be stopped from progressing into cavities. As it progresses they can look like brownish spots, holes or broken teeth. Although a Pediatric Dentist is proficient at identifying symptoms of ECC, if you as a parent spot these in your child’s teeth at home, I would recommend you to take them to a Pediatric Dentist at the earliest.
There can be multiple factors causing ECC. To begin with, prolonged and bedtime breast feeding especially after the age of 12 months results in nursing caries.
Bottle caries as the name suggests occurs because of children going to sleep for hours with a bottle full of milk or juice in their mouth. The milk as we all know contains lactose which is a type of sugar. Sugar bugs or bacteria love this sugar. They break down this sugar into acid that actually overtime damages your child’s teeth resulting in painful cavities.
One important thing to highlight here is we often see parents sharing spoons and cutlery with their children. As a result of this the bacteria gets passed on to the child from parents. Hence it is imperative for parents to maintain good oral hygiene and be cavity free to do so or avoid sharing cutlery with their children.
Majority of the parents have a misconception that this does not really need any treatment as these are baby teeth and will eventually fall out.
Well, as a Pediatric Dentist, I would highly stress on the need to treat this as soon as possible. If left untreated your child will be in pain because of an infection or an abscess. Furthermore, your child will not be able to eat properly and will be malnourished. This would also affect his/her sleep, behavior, school and overall wellbeing.
Overall this can cause the child to lose milk teeth prematurely and could lead to cavities/complications in the permanent teeth.
If you think your child has ECC or have any queries, you can always get in touch with me through my contact me page and I would be happy to help!