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Early childhood caries (ECC):
This is also known as Baby bottle tooth decay. This is seen in teeth of infants and young children. It is chiefly seen as severe decay in upper anteriors and molar teeth. The lower anterior teeth are generally unaffected.
The cause of ECC, as the name suggests, is due to the frequent consumption of sweetened liquids such as milk from the bottle. This is fermentable carbohydrates and frequent bottle feeding at night without adequate teeth cleaning measures, causes this irreversible damage to babies teeth.
The child suffers pain, discomfort and is unable to eat hard foods. There is increase craving for sweets and in many cases the child is underweight.
The primary culprit for ECC is Streptococcus Mutans which is a bacteria found in the oral flora. The sweetened liquids are found clinging to the infant’s teeth for long periods and the bacteria in their mouth use these sugars as food. They then produce acid that attacks the teeth.
The good news is that ECC is preventable. Giving children sweetened liquids such as milk/ milk formulae or juices through the bottle should be avoided, especially if the child falls asleep with the bottle during naps or at night.
Cleaning of teeth with the correct brushes and toothpaste with the correct technique will go a long way to helping the child having healthy teeth. Regular dental check-ups with the paediatric dentist will help to understand and determine if children are having or are at risk at having dental problems which need to be looked into. The paediatric dentist will also help parents understand foods and procedures that cause cavities and can help with assessing if the child requires professionally applied fluoride preparations on teeth to prevent caries.
Healthy teeth are possible and they will result in a healthy baby!!!