What is Dental Decay in Children?

As parents, we want to give our children a healthy start in life. This healthy start definitely needs to include our children’s oral health – because dental health is a large part of total health. Together we can help prevent children’s tooth decay and create a lifelong healthy smile for your child. In this blog series, we’ll be discussing the four main ways you can help prevent children’s dental decay.

Before discussing prevention, let’s answer this question – What is tooth decay in children? Our mouths are full of bacteria that attach to our teeth, gums, tissue and tongue. Some of the bacteria is good, but some can be harmful and play a part in the tooth decay process.

Tooth decay is a result of an infection that feeds on sugars found in foods creating harmful acids. These acids begin to wear away the tooth’s protective hard outer surface called enamel, and overtime cause cavities.

The first stage of dental decay is called dental plaque. This is a sticky colorless film of bacteria that starts around the gum line and works its way up the tooth. Over time the acids found in dental plaque cause the enamel to lose minerals and a white spot lesion may appear. Once white spot lesions appear, the site is at high risk for a cavity. At this point, the pediatric dentist may be able to slow down tooth decay. If the white spot lesions are not treated and the process continues, cavities will develop. Cavities are permanent damage that a dentist repairs with a filling.

Left untreated, dental decay leads to pain, tooth loss and even lowers self-confidence. When children experience tooth pain, they lose sleep and miss school. At its worst stage, a pus-filled sac called an abscess will develop. If left untreated, this abscess can cause serious or even life threatening infections.

The good news is with proper dental care, dental decay is preventable. This blog series will focus on four of the main ways you can help prevent children’s dental decay. Topics include:

Importance of oral hygiene (June 12)

Eating a Healthy Diet (June 19)

Which Liquids to Serve Your Children and When (June 26)

The Bacteria that Causes Dental Decay Comes from Our Mothers (July 10)

For further information about tooth decay, check out this article about Cavities that appeared in the October 2006 issue of Parents magazine.