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How To Prevent Tooth Decay In Toddlers | Joby Hurst, DMD

How To Prevent Tooth Decay In Toddlers

November 15, 20235 min read

Unsightly stains on your toddler’s teeth? It may be more than that. Tooth decay in toddlers is quite common, and although the sight of brown or black spots on your child’s teeth can be alarming, rotten teeth can be treated in a variety of ways. 

Symptoms and Signs of Rotting Teeth

Parents may not always think about the possibility of their young child’s teeth rotting and turning black or brown, but it happens. At Hurst Pediatric Dentistry, from time to time, we see children who have not been exposed to the best oral care routines.  As a result tooth decay can set in.

Signs of tooth decay include:

  • Chalky teeth 

  • Toothache

  • Hot, cold, or sweet sensitivity

  • Discolored, black, or brown spots on the teeth

  • Bad breath

  • Bad taste in the mouth

  • Swelling

  • Pain around tooth area

  • Cavities

  • Fever

  • Irritability

  • Bleeding gums

How Is Tooth Decay Detected In Toddlers?

If you notice any of the signs and symptoms listed above, your toddler could be experiencing dental decay. Tooth decay can be detected in toddlers with a dental exam or an x-ray. Although many parents think dental decay in their toddlers won’t matter since they lose their baby teeth anyway, that is actually far from the truth.

Baby teeth are important for a variety of reasons and therefore it is essential that toddler teeth are taken care of. Healthy teeth have many benefits as well. Parents may consider pulling baby or toddler teeth, but it is recommended to keep those baby teeth and fill them instead.

Little girl without front teeth with tooth brush

What Causes Rotten Teeth?

Poor dental hygiene is the most common cause of rotten teeth and tooth decay. Of course, other factors can be the cause or at least contribute to it, such as poor diet, dry mouth, dental crevices, fluoride deficiency, and improper use of a baby bottle.  

Tooth decay in toddlers may be caused by them not brushing their teeth carefully enough or even can be caused by them neglecting their dental hygiene altogether. Parents should be an active part of their child’s daily oral care routine to avoid situations like advanced tooth decay.

Which Children Are More At Risk?

Children sometimes have what’s known as chalky teeth. Teeth that are chalky have either light brown or bright white spots on them and are created when a baby’s tooth enamel doesn’t harden properly in the womb. Baby molars and adult molars are affected. 

Children who have chalky teeth are more at risk of tooth decay. According to the D3 Group, 1 in 5 school children have chalky teeth and they have a 10x higher risk of tooth decay.

In addition, children who do not practice adequate dental hygiene and those who have diets high in sugar are also at risk.

Why Is It Important To Detect Decay Early?

It is very important to detect decay early in order to avoid issues such as pain, shifting of teeth, improper spacing, and other effects such as the ability to speak well.

Ignoring dental decay can lead to that decay spreading which in turn may lead to expensive treatments and potentially tooth loss.

Baby teeth hold space in the mouth for the adult teeth, and loss of a tooth can affect how the adult teeth come into the mouth. Besides that, strong, healthy teeth are important for eating, chewing, and talking properly.

At worst, ignoring tooth decay can lead to infections that can be life-threatening.

Dental decay toddlers

How Is Toddler Tooth Decay Treated?

Tooth decay is treated in a variety of ways depending on the severity of the decomposition. Fillings and crowns are two common ways to treat tooth decay in toddlers.

In severe cases, root canals or tooth extractions may be needed if the nerve or entire tooth cannot be treated. These procedures can be expensive for the parent and scary for the young child. It is best to adopt habits that will help to deter tooth-rotting issues from happening.

Children enjoying with ice cream

Eating Habits Can Help Deter Tooth Decay

Food And Drinks That Are Bad For Teeth

Generally speaking, foods that are high in sugar content or acid content are bad for teeth. Sugar and carbohydrates stick to teeth and cause teeth to decay more quickly. Acid in the mouth eats away tooth enamel, causing teeth to weaken and become sensitive to hot or cold foods.

Examples of foods to be aware of include:

  • Sweets such as candies, pastries, cakes, cookies, pies, etc.

  • Soft drinks and sports beverages

  • Pickles

  • Pasta sauce

  • Citrus fruits

  • Dried fruits

  • Vinegar

  • Crackers or other refined carbohydrates

It’s best if consuming these types of foods and beverages to have your child rinse or brush afterward.

Foods And Drinks That Are Good For Teeth

Just as certain foods are bad for your teeth, the following foods can be good for them. The College of Dentistry at the University of Illinois lists 32 foods and drinks. Here are a few of them:

  • Cheese, milk, and yogurt

  • Water

  • Leafy greens

  • Nuts

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Tea and Coffee

  • Whole Grains

  • And others

Lovely little girl smiling after doing examination in a pediatric stomatology. Milk teeth care.

Care Routines and Dental Checks Can Prevent Tooth Rot

While choosing to eat certain foods and drinks over others can be helpful, the best prevention is to ensure your child is following a good dental hygiene program. Toothbrushing by a parent with a soft toothbrush two times a day is recommended. For kids under age 3, parents should use a rice grain-sized amount of fluoride-based toothpaste. From 3-6 years of age, a pea-sized amount of paste should suffice.

Establishing a dental home early (best by 12 months of age) and then having routine dental checkups can help in detection of decay and in getting early treatment. The earlier the treatment, the better. The main point to remember is that prevention is the key to avoiding tooth decay in your child’s teeth.

For questions regarding tooth decay in your toddler and the best methods to treat it, contact Dr. Joby Hurst at Hurst Pediatric Dentistry.

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