A Parent’s Guide to Causes and Effects of Tooth Decay in Kids

As a parent, you always strive for the best for your children’s overall wellbeing, and dental health is no exception.

Despite being on the ride of keeping your child healthy and strong, you might witness dental-related problems every now and then.

Most children need adult supervision for flossing or brushing their teeth, which acts as a prime culprit for a myriad of dental issues and tooth decay plays the major role.

Here, we will talk about and highlight the prominent causes and effects of tooth decay in kids and how these can be harmful.

What is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is irreversible damage in which the sticky dental plaques mount up on the surface of the tooth. When the tooth enamel is permanently damaged, broken, or destroyed, it means that your child is suffering from tooth decay or rotten tooth. Tooth decay, which creates a hole in your child’s teeth, can also result in cavities.

How Tooth Decay is formed in Children

There is no one particular reason that contributes to tooth decay among children; In fact, it can cultivate because of various possible factors:

Poor Dietary Habits

High-sugar and carbohydrate foods are what children mostly consume, bringing a negative effect on their oral health. This is as these foods usually cling onto the teeth. Consequently, this leads to bacterial growth in the mouth that eats away tooth enamel with time.

Acid Layer Formation

The bacteria that reside in your child’s teeth is probable to produce acids. These acidic layers formed on the outer surface of your teeth will damage the tooth enamel. As an outcome, your child’s resistance level of developing cavities or whole in mouth immensely decreases.

Not Enough Water Intake of Fluoride

Fluoride is a substance that aids to prevent and even reverse the early stages of tooth decay. This naturally exists in water and is a safe way to prevent the dental caries. It helps protect the tooth when in contact with the enamel, preventing acids from dissolving onto them. Unfortunately, some children do not drink enough water, which also leads to higher risk of cavities.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Aiming for the healthy and strong teeth of your kids? Brushing and flossing teeth is the vital action to take into consideration because poor dental care is likely to affect the pellicle areas, which eventually elevates the risk of tooth decay. Therefore, it is essential for children to floss on a daily basis while brushing teeth at least 2 times a day.

Saliva Flow is Less Than Normal

When salivary glands in the mouth do not produce enough saliva, it leads to a dry mouth and puts the oral health at risk. This is because it helps dilute the sugars after consumption of food or drinks. Additionally, it aids to balance the pH levels such as with the plaque. Therefore, when you do not have enough saliva in the mouth, it is more likely to gain plaque, gum disease and tooth decay.

Effects of Tooth Decay on Children

Teeth maintenance plays a very important role in protecting your children’s teeth from decay. Tooth decay in the initial stages might look like a white strand and can be prevented from further damage if maintained properly. However, if it is ignored at the early stages, the process of tooth decay will continue and enamel will further break down. Later stages of tooth decay indicate yellow-brown hard staining on the tooth. It is an alarming stage, as enamel is weakened. If parents are likely to ignore it further, it will eventually result in a breakage of the tooth and can be easily identified by a blackish or dark brown spot.

What happens if a child’s tooth decay is left untreated?

The longer your child is left unattended with tooth decay, the more they will undergo:

  1. Sensitivity to Food Tooth decay makes them sensitive to chewing, eating or drinking, especially if they intake sweets or any other food.
  2. Severe pain in teeth The big holes in the teeth will eventually cause a tingling effect in the nerves and your child will endure severe pain while chewing food.
  3. Discomfort Tooth decay makes your child very uncomfortable because of its pain.
  4. Swelling/Infection Your child may also experience swelling and infection at night.
  5. Intricate and expensive treatments To remove the tooth decay, your child will have to undergo different procedures, which might not be confined to tooth filling but can also lead to tooth extraction or root canal treatment.
  6. Challenging treatment A child in their earlier years has high sensitivity and exposure to high levels of treatment at that age can serve as a challenging factor for them.
  7. Poor self-image/self-confidence Children are quite conscious of their physical appearance and these clinical procedures and its effect on their looks can affect their confidence and image.

How a child’s tooth decay can be treated

There are various ways to treat a child’s cavity depending on its severity. Some of the options to treat consist:

Using Fluoride

If the cavity is still in its early stages then a dentist may recommend a fluoride treatment to restore the surface of the tooth. These treatments would include more fluoride than mouthwash or toothpaste.

Filling

A filling (dental sealant) may be required to restore a tooth if the decay has already worsened. There are different elements used to make a filling such as porcelain, tooth-colored composite resins or a combination of different materials.

Crown

When a child already has a tooth that has weakened, a crown may be needed. This is customized to cover the whole natural crown of your child, once the dentist removes all the decay on the tooth.

Tooth Extraction

There are times when a tooth can no longer be saved. In this case, it must be removed. This would bring a gap between the teeth where a bridge or dental implant can be added, preventing any shift in the teeth.

Root Canal

When the tooth decay has been left untreated for a long period of time, it may reach the inner layer of the tooth, also known as the ‘pulp.’ This would require a root canal treatment to save the tooth and eliminate any infection.

Since teeth have a pivotal role in your child’s oral health, childhood tooth decay should be prevented as much as possible. I highly recommend getting regular dental checkups of your children to ensure good oral health.

Dr. Anila Virani
Specialist Pediatric Dentist