What is Early childhood caries(ECC)?
ECC is the early development of severe form of tooth decay(cavity) affecting infants and children below 5 years old. Usually seen on the upper front teeth of the child but other teeth can also be affected.
What causes Early Childhood Caries?
When food and liquid containing sugar especially milk or juice are left for long hours in the childs mouth it causes decay of teeth. It is usually associated with putting a child to sleep with bottle containing sweetened milk, formula or juice. Bacteria use these sugars to make acids which causes tooth decay. The child is also at risk for ear infections and choking.
Other risk factors for tooth decay include the frequency of feeding, poor oral hygiene and some medical and dental conditions.
How do I identify whether my child has ECC?
Initially it is seen as white spots or patches near the gumline of teeth. It is very difficult to spot them at this stage. But an expert dentist can spot them at a early stage. At this stage, the disease can be stopped and reversed. But if unnoticed them the white spots turn yellow, brown and black and finally it starts to cavitate. If your child has white or brown patches or decay in more than one tooth then you definitely need to seek dental treatment.
Children usually refuse to take food because of the pain associated with chewing. So parents should be watchful when a child is avoiding food.
Does it spread to other teeth?
Yes, it can spread to other teeth very quickly. By the age of 2-3 years it may affect more than 10 teeth, which is almost half the number of teeth in the child’s mouth.
How to prevent ECC?
Do not put your child to sleep with a bottle of milk, juice formula or any liquid containing sugar. Early diagnosis can help in preventing the spread of the disease and in some cases it can be reversed also in the initial stages. So it is very important to take your child to the dentist as soon as the first tooth erupts and definitely not later than the childs first birthday. Your dentist will discuss the risks of your child developing cavities and how to prevent them.
Is this condition treatable?
Yes definitely treatable. Early treatment helps to preserve the teeth and restore them completely. But when the treatment is delayed it can even result in loss of teeth.Authored By : Dr. S. Hemamalathi and Dr. K. S Senthil Kumar