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Childhood Caries: What Is It?

Did you know that early childhood caries, or ECC, is one of the most prevalent yet preventable diseases in children under age six? According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a young child is five times more likely to develop ECC than asthma. Learn more about ECC and how to keep your child’s smile healthy and sound.

Why Is It Important to Maintain Healthy Baby Teeth?

Even though baby teeth will eventually fall out, keeping them healthy will set the stage for a lifetime of healthy smiles. Those little chompers maintain the space needed for the adult teeth developing behind the scenes and help with proper speech development as well as chewing and eating. The premature loss of baby teeth can result in the neighboring teeth shifting out of alignment, potentially leading to crooked teeth or a crowded mouth. That will likely translate into the need for orthodontic treatment down the road.

What Is Early Childhood Caries?

Early childhood caries, otherwise known as baby bottle tooth decay, refers to a condition that affects young children up to age six. The first signs of ECC are white spots that appear near the gum line that often go unnoticed. If not diagnosed and treated, your little one may develop brown spots or holes or even broken teeth that may require involved dental procedures down the road.

How Does Early Childhood Caries Develop?

ECC is a preventable condition that usually results from the frequent, prolonged exposure of a child’s teeth to liquids and foods containing sugar, including milk and juice. As cavity-causing bacteria feast on the sugars, they produce acids that, over time, destroy your little one’s pearly whites. The main bacteria responsible for tooth caries are streptococcus mutans and lactobacillus, which usually transmit from the primary caregivers to the child. Other factors contributing to ECC are the frequency of feedings, poor oral hygiene practices, inadequate fluoride exposure, and the use of certain medications.

How Can You Prevent Early Childhood Caries?

The best way to prevent ECC is to care for your little one’s oral health right from the start. After each feeding, make sure you wipe your baby’s gums with a clean damp gauze or washcloth. When the teeth begin to come in, brush them regularly with a soft-bristled baby toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste around the size of a grain of rice until age 3. Between ages 3 and 6, you can use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

To prevent ECC, avoid placing sugary liquids or juices in bottles, make sure your child doesn’t go to bed with a bottle, and never dip the pacifier in sugar or honey. Encourage your little one to drink out of a sippy cup by the first birthday. Once you introduce solid foods, try to stick to healthy eating habits to promote a healthy body and healthy smiles.

Quality Pediatric Dentistry Services in Phoenix, AZ

Visit Jet Set Smiles Pediatric Dentistry for tips and advice on preventing ECC. We encourage you to start your child’s routine dental visits as soon as the first tooth emerges and no later than age one. Together, we’ll establish healthy habits for healthy smiles right from the start. Call us and schedule your appointment today!

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