Understanding early childhood dental decay

Early childhood dental decay is a severe form of tooth decay that affects the teeth of infants and young children. It is found usually on the upper front teeth but other teeth may also be affected.
Decay develops when sugars are often left on teeth for a long time. These sugars are found in many foods and drinks including milk, juice, honey, soft drinks and so on. The bacteria uses the sugars to produce acids that attack teeth.
Dental decay is more likely to occur in infants or toddlers who, fall asleep sucking a bottle filled with sugary liquid or with a dummy dipped in a sweet substance such as honey. It also occurs in children with poor oral hygiene, or those fed on a diet high in sugar or take lots of snacks .
What parents should know about dental decay is that children are not born with decay-causing bacteria in the mouth.  These bacteria are passed to the child by their parents or caregivers through food tasting and or through keeping a dummy or teat in their own mouth. By keeping their mouth healthy, parents can reduce the risk of decay in themselves and their children.
Follow these simple guidelines to prevent dental decay in your child’s teeth.
1. Do not allow a bottle containing milk or sweetened liquids to remain in your child’s mouth after they have fallen asleep. If your child needs a bottle for comfort or for sleep, only provide cooled boiled water in the bottle.
2. Replace the bottle with a cup when your child is six to 12 months old.
3. Avoid sweet and sticky snacks.
4. Clean your child’s teeth at least twice a day.
5. Choose sugar-free medicines.
6. Start visits to your dentist by your child’s first birthday.

For more information  visit our website at www.ugadent.org  
Dr. Matovu  is a dental surgeon and director of Prime Dental Clinic. He is also the CDE coordinator Uganda Dental Association.