Tooth Decay in Toddlers: A Consequence of Sweet Tooth
Toddlers are vulnerable to tooth decay as soon as their first tooth appears.
When it comes to our child growth, we become even more watchful and try to provide them with the best of everything. The initial years of their growth are very crucial and determine the fate of their future health. So it’s essential to monitor their growth and health at early stages. As our lifestyle is upgrading, their eating habits and food choices are also switching. Children are now more delighted by junk and sugary products which are harming their health in many forms. One of such common problems being highlighted is tooth decay in toddlers.
Tooth decay or dental Caries is observed with the appearance of white spots on teeth which eventually result in blackening of teeth. Toddlers are vulnerable to tooth decay as soon as their first tooth appears. It may or may not be painful and we might not be able to notice its symptoms at early stages.
Why does Tooth decay Occur in Toddlers?
- Poor dental hygiene: Brushing once a day or no brushing in a day can lead to extended oral health issues.
- Bottle feeding toddlers during the night: Bottle-feeding during the night is the primary cause of tooth decay in toddlers. During the nighttime, the span is longer so the activity window for bacteria wide opens, and contaminating toddler’s teeth with sugary formula in milk at night will certainly enhance the growth of unwanted bacteria causing tooth decay.
- Too many carbohydrates and sugary products: Toddlers are tricky to manage when it comes to feeding them with healthy food. Their taste buds keep swapping at times. They like being introduced to new chewable food options rich in carbohydrates and sugar. Apart, introducing them with candies, ice creams, cookies, chocolates, aerated drinks, and canned fruit juices at an early stage increases the risk of tooth decay.
- Less intake of water: Less water intake throughout the day increases the probability of bacterial growth in the mouth.
- Less salivation than normal limits: If your toddler is producing less saliva than normal, he may be suffering from Xerostomia. It is a medical condition due to the non-production of saliva from salivary glands and needs to be reported to a dentist.
Tooth Decay Process
The food or milk leftover on and in-between teeth is treated by bacteria (Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus) for its digestion, which then releases acids that forms a bacterial community on the surface of teeth called plaque. This plaque is acidic enough to demineralize enamel leading to tooth decay and other oral infections.
How you can prevent tooth decay in Toddlers?
ü Brushing teeth twice a day: Make your toddlers brush twice a day for at least 2 minutes and maintain good oral hygiene. In fact, according to American Dental Association, oral hygiene should be maintained right after a baby’s birth or before the onset of teething. For this, you may clean the baby’s mouth with a sterilized dampened muslin cloth. Furthermore, now there are many toothpaste options available for toddlers in the market with natural flavors that are SLS and Fluoride-free. So you may choose the one that suits your toddler.
ü Introducing sippers/ drinking mugs: As soon as your toddler’s hand coordination gets better, start introducing them with good grade sippers and drinking mugs. Swallowing milk directly to the food pipe will certainly reduce the contact time of sugary milk with teeth and reduce the overall risk of tooth decay.
ü Drinking water at regular intervals: Keeping the mouth clean with frequent water sipping will flush away the excess acids and bacteria in the stomach where they can be easily digested.
ü Switching to Natural Sugar Products: According to a recent study, the French National Nutrition and Health program (French PNNS) advises not to introduce sugars and fats as a part of complementary feeding at an early stage to toddlers.1 So avoid including extra sugar in your toddler’s meals and try to feed them with natural substitutes instead. According to new research, it is found that Xylitol, a low-calorie natural sweetener is found to be preventing tooth decay or dental caries in children.2 So giving your toddler Xylitol candies and Xylitol gums will prevent early tooth decay and satisfy their sweet tooth simultaneously.
ü Regular dental visits: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests visiting a dentist right after the emergence of the first tooth in babies and continuing the dental visits after every 6 months. So plan your and your toddler’s dental visits as advised by your dentist for healthy teeth.
1. Bournez, M., Ksiazek, E., Charles, M. A., Lioret, S., Brindisi, M. C., de Lauzon-Guillain, B., & Nicklaus, S. (2019). Frequency of Use of Added Sugar, Salt, and Fat in Infant Foods up to 10 Months in the Nationwide ELFE Cohort Study: Associated Infant Feeding and Caregiving Practices. Nutrients, 11(4), 733.
2. Gupta, P., Gupta, N., Pawar, A. P., Birajdar, S. S., Natt, A. S., & Singh, H. P. (2013). Role of sugar and sugar substitutes in dental caries: a review. ISRN dentistry, 2013, 519421.