Managing Wellness

What Are Early Childhood Caries?

  • Caries are tooth decay or cavities caused by bacteria
  • Children under the age of 6 are susceptible to tooth decay, cavities and missing teeth
  • Proper dental care can help your child avoid early childhood caries
Posted by January 10, 2019

Employees with babies are typically well informed when it comes to teething, but how much do they know about taking care of their children’s teeth once they erupt?

Many parents aren’t sure when to start brushing or how to care for their children’s teeth until they start visiting the dentist. They want to avoid early childhood caries, but they aren’t quite sure how. Dental health is important for physical and mental well-being (of both parents and children!) and since February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, it’s a good time to share this guide with your employees who have young children.

What Are Early Childhood Caries (ECC)?

First, let’s start with the word “caries.” If you’re unfamiliar with it, caries are tooth decay or cavities caused by bacteria. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), ECC is defined as “the presence of one or more decayed (non-cavitated or cavitated lesions), missing (due to caries) or filled tooth surfaces in any primary tooth in a preschool-age child between birth and 71 months of age.” This means that children under the age of 6 are susceptible to tooth decay, cavities and missing teeth.

When to Think About ECC

Some people think they can wait until their child’s first appointment with the dentist to begin a lifetime of dental care, but that shouldn’t be the case. Often, pediatricians will remind parents at the one-year health check-up to schedule a visit with the dentist—but by the time parents actually book the appointment, the toddler may be closer to the age of 2.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) reports that babies should be seen in the office when the first tooth erupts, or no later than the age of 1. If parents are waiting to learn about taking care of their children’s teeth until after most have come in, they may be too late.

How to Avoid ECC

Nutrition and proper oral care play a significant role in helping young children avoid tooth decay and cavities. However, with this specific age population, there’s a lot more that goes into mouth maintenance than simply brushing, flossing and rinsing at least two times a day.

First, start with a balanced diet. Young children should avoid overly sugary foods, but parents should also keep an eye on liquids. As the ADA states, “Unrestricted, at-will consumption of liquids, beverages and foods containing fermentable carbohydrates (e.g. juice drinks, soft drinks, milk and starches) can contribute to decay after eruption of the first tooth.” If you plan on sharing milk or juices with your child, do so at mealtime, and be sure to brush their teeth gently afterward. Water is a healthy choice of beverage in between meals.

Babies should finish breastfeeding or drinking from a bottle before falling asleep at night. The ADA reports that, “Unrestricted, at-will nocturnal breastfeeding after eruption of the child’s first tooth can lead to an increased risk of caries.”

When your employees know how to prevent caries in their young children, they won’t have to worry about how their oral health is developing. If effective routines are put into practice early in life, maintenance and upkeep will be easier as the child grows up.

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