A sticky film of bacteria, called dental plaque is constantly forming on the teeth and especially in the area where the teeth and gum meets and also on the biting surface of the teeth. When your child eats or drinks foods containing sugars or other carbohydrate, the dental plaque converts the sugars into acid. Normally the acid is neutralized by saliva but when sugary foods are eaten too frequently the saliva is not able to cope and the acid causes the enamel (outer hard white surface of tooth) to soften. If this continues over a long period of time the plaque bacteria will penetrate through the enamel and cause softening inside the tooth. Eventually a hole or dental cavity will form. Dental cavities may develop if your child consumes sugary foods and drinks more than four times a day.
Early Childhood Caries, sometimes known as baby bottle tooth decay, refers to severe decay in the teeth of infants or young children. Very often it starts with transmission of bacteria called strep mutans from another family member who has dental decay. Dental decay can occur almost as soon as the first baby teeth appear. It can start very quickly when sweetened liquids, including milk, milk formula and fruit juices are given and are left clinging to an infantʼs teeth for long periods. The bacteria on the teeth are able to continually produce acid and this results in dental decay spreading very quickly through the teeth. A bottle given at night-time should only contain boiled cooled water. Remember a child should be fed and put to bed, but not put to bed and fed. Encourage drinking from a plastic cup as soon as possible.
Tooth erosion is the softening and wearing a way of tooth surface enamel caused by the continual presence in the mouth of acidic food and drinks, such as fizzy drinks and fruit juices. This can occur even when there is good oral hygiene. The continual presence of acid softens the enamel which gradually gets brushed away. Tooth erosion can be prevented by reducing the frequency of eating or drinking acidic foods or drinks. For infants fruit juice should be diluted to five parts water to one part juice. Dental erosion can also be reduced by not brushing immediately after a meal, a snack or a soft drink. Brushing too soon after eating or drinking will result in loss of enamel. It takes at least 1 hour for the acidity to be reversed in the mouth and for the teeth to reharden following an acid attack. This is becoming a major problem for children and adults.
For more tips on healthy habits for healthy kids download our parents guide to children’s oral health Here!