Symptoms of tooth decay in toddlers, often referred to as ‘baby bottle tooth decay’, mainly occur in the upper front teeth, gradually spreading to the gum line.
Tooth decay begins when the cavity-causing bacteria are passed from the mother to the infant by way of saliva, as the mother puts the baby’s feeding spoon in her mouth, or cleans a pacifier in her mouth. Prolonged exposure to sweet foods, such as chocolate, sugary snacks and drinks is another cause of the disease.
This disease may hurt the toddler, thus causing a lot of discomfort. In the early stages, tooth decay is quite painless. Initially it appears as cavities in the four front teeth of the toddler. This indicates the presence of cavities elsewhere in the mouth as well.
If it goes unnoticed, it might lead to pain to the toddler eventually. This pain is caused mainly due to a continuous consumption of sweet foods such as sugary snacks, chocolates, candies, and sweetened drinks. The cavities spread to other teeth as well. They start appearing near the gum line and decay the teeth, turning dark brown in colour. As the decay spreads deeper in to the tooth, sensitivity can be felt with hot and cold drinks, thus indicating that the nerves and blood vessels in the tooth have been affected by this decay.
Dental caries is usually diagnosed on the basis of the complete history and physical examination of the child. In order to prevent tooth decay in toddlers, one should take certain steps. Avoiding a continuous use of sippy cups and bottles conditions the growth of bacteria, especially, if it contains juice or milk. The bacteria converts the dietary sugar in to acid. When this acid comes in contact with the baby’s teeth, dissolves the tooth structure and the decay progresses. Thus, the baby should not be allowed to sleep with a bottle containing these drinks, but only water.
Therefore, it is considered safest to give plain water to the baby in between meals rather that feeding a sweet liquid.
Along with brushing the teeth twice a day and rinsing the mouth after every meal, one may opt for flossing with a fluoride toothpaste. In case a cavity is formed, a filling procedure may be followed to fill the cavity, thus restoring it to its original shape after the decaying portion has been removed. If the tooth is badly damaged, capping with a crown (also known as a cap) may be done. This is done is sever cases, when filling the teeth does not help in restoration of the original shape and structure of the tooth. Again, if the pulp of the tooth is affected, a root canal treatment can be opted for.
In some unfortunate cases, symptoms of tooth decay in toddlers become so severe that the teeth cannot be repaired and need to be removed. The good news is that decay is preventable if symptoms are identified and treated at the right time.
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