Underestimated danger: caries infestation in children’s teeth
Caries is possible in children from the very first tooth and is not harmless. The sweet milk teeth form the basis for the later permanent teeth. If tooth decay has occurred in the milk teeth, treatment is therefore highly recommended even for small children.
How tooth decay can destroy milk teeth
Caries in children is caused by acids formed by mutans streptococci that attack the softer enamel of milk teeth. Caries destroys milk teeth particularly quickly. At the beginning a caries focus is possible by regular oral hygiene with fluoride-containing toothpastes suitable for children and avoidance of further damaging influences. Saliva can also have a caries-inhibiting and remineralising effect. However, if the appropriate measures are not taken, the caries in the deciduous teeth spreads further and can lead to tooth loss and gum disease.
Especially dangerous for babies and toddlers is the so-called “teat bottle caries”. This occurs in children up to three years of age when the children suckle too often on teat bottles filled with beverages containing sugar. The teeth are exposed to sugar for a long time, cannot recover from saliva or brushing and the children develop caries. A caries centre that has developed as a result is particularly frequent on the upper and lower vaginal teeth.
Bad enamel can also be present from birth. Parents should pay special attention to dental hygiene.
Other causes of tooth decay in children:
- bad cleaning
- Too many sugary drinks and foods
- lack of control by the dentist
- continuous sucking on teat bottles
Important: tooth decay is contagious. Parents can therefore pass on bacteria that can cause tooth decay to their children, for example by using the same cutlery.
Cleaning instead of drilling – this is how caries and bacteria are kept away.
As mentioned above, there are children who have poor enamel quality and a predisposition to caries caused by their genes. However, tooth decay in children can be successfully prevented by appropriate measures, as there are rarely children whose enamel is so bad due to heredity that brushing no longer helps.
This includes first and foremost a consistent cleaning routine, which should be practiced together with the parents. Half an hour after meals, children should brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste. The correct brushing technique is also important for the prevention of tooth decay. If the child has not yet mastered this sufficiently, parents must take over the brushing. Regular visits to the dentist round off the prevention of tooth decay in children. If these visits are carried out consistently, it is unlikely that large caries infestations will develop. The article Brushing children’s teeth provides helpful tips for correct tooth brushing.
Important points in caries prophylaxis for children:
- regular and correct cleaning of the milk teeth
- a balanced diet with foods rich in vitamins and nutrients
- correctly dosed fluoride supply for the milk teeth
- Preventive examinations by the dentist of your choice
Fissure sealing for milk teeth
If caries has already been detected on some teeth or if there is a genetic predisposition to caries infestation, fissure sealing may already be advisable for milk teeth. In this case, the notches on the chewing surface of the molars are slightly flattened with tooth cement. This makes it harder for food residues to settle, cleaning is easier and caries is less likely.
Beware of dark stains on the teeth!
Caries infestation is painful in most cases. For children who experience pain while eating, it is important to check the mouth and teeth for caries. It would be better, however, to check constantly to detect any discolorations long before they become painful. This is because the acids of the caries-forming bacteria initially show up as brown spots or stains on the teeth. However, parents are not always able to detect incipient caries, which is why regular dental check-ups should also be carried out by the dentist.
Caries? Off to the dentist!
If caries has developed in children, only a visit to the dentist can help. The dentist then decides on the further measures to be taken. If you react in time, often only the outer enamel is affected, which can then be treated with a highly concentrated fluoride varnish. However, if holes have already formed, the area must be treated with a drill. The caries is peeled out of the tooth and the hole is finally closed again with a filling. In the case of larger caries infestations, in which the tooth nerve has already been affected and is inflamed, a milk tooth nerve treatment may be advisable. In this treatment, parts or all of the nerves are removed from the affected tooth. Crowns are also used for milk teeth. If molars are lost due to tooth decay in children, the dentist often uses “placeholders” so that the permanent teeth can develop normally in children.
Caries treatment by the dentist:
- Fluoride varnish with minimal caries infestation
- Boring for larger holes
- Filling the holes with cement or plastic
- Root canal treatment for large defects caused by caries
- Insertion of crowns or spacers
dread of the dentist
Caries often occurs in children, who generally have a problem with dental hygiene. Often, fear of the dentist also plays an important role. Special paediatric dentists are trained to deal sensitively with anxiety patients. Also a treatment in short sleep or under anaesthesia is often possible.
How do I explain caries to my child?
For children, the description of caries is often incomprehensible. That is why parents find a lot of help such as books or films about caries education in children. Particularly well known are the tooth rolls Karius and Baktus by the Norwegian writer Thorbjörn Egner. They explain to the children what tooth decay is, what happens to their teeth and why brushing is so important.