Caries in children and babies

Caries in children and babies

Caries in young children remains a problem in our society. Even though paediatric dental care has improved considerably thanks to a number of measures, carious teeth in babies and children are still widespread.

In this article, you will learn how caries develop and how you can detect caries in your child’s teeth even before the proverbial hole in the tooth, becomes visible. We also provide information on what influence, decay in milk teeth can have on permanent teeth, and include tips for prevention.

  1. Causes of caries in milk teeth
  2. Detecting caries in children’s teeth
  3. Dental treatment of caries
  4. Caries in milk teeth and permanent teeth
  5. Preventing caries
  6. Nutrition and caries
  7. Tips for oral care
  8. Kinder Karex toothpaste without fluoride

What are the causes of caries in milk teeth?

The enamel on milk teeth is only around half as thick as that on permanent teeth. After eating sugary foods, the bacteria on the teeth produce aggressive acids. These release calcium and phosphate out of the enamel, which is made of 97% hydroxyapatite. How does this result in caries? If the bacteria are not brushed away properly and acids continue to be produced, the enamel becomes ever thinner and increasingly porous. The bacteria can now easily penetrate into the tooth and lead to a painful inflammation. Due to the thinner enamel, caries results more quickly in children and infants than in adults. Saliva normally ensures that after eating sugary foods the enamel becomes hard again (remineralises). The natural remineralisation of the teeth is one of the main functions of saliva. Yet since less saliva is produced overnight, it is particularly important before going to bed to clean children's teeth thoroughly. The risk of caries in milk teeth is increased considerably by the consumption of sweets, long periods of drinking sugary drinks or irregular or ineffective tooth cleaning. That is why parents should make sure that their children eat a well-balanced diet and should also ensure regular tooth care and tooth prophylaxis.

How can I recognise caries in children?

Parents can recognise milk tooth caries in children and infants by means of a variety of symptoms:

  • When they complain of toothache when eating sweet, hot or cold foods.
  • Dark discolorations can also be a sign of caries.
  • In the worst case scenario, a hole can be seen in the tooth. You should then arrange an appointment to see the dentist immediately.

 

If plaque is not completely removed by brushing, caries can develop. Appearances are deceptive, however, because caries prefer to develop under the plaque, which is not visible at first glance (left image). Only after the plaque has been removed, does the full extent of the caries become apparent (right image).

 

Courtesy of the Quintessenz Publisher (www.quintessenz.de). Images taken from: Quintessenz 70 (2019), No 5, KINDERZAHNMEDIZIN, pp. 526-532 „Mikrobiologie der frühkindlichen Karies“ Meyer, Frederic / Sztajer, Helena.

However, either no or only very minor symptoms are experienced for a long time. Regular trips to the dentist to prevent caries is all the more important as he or she can recognise invisible forms of caries at an early stage. Today, many dentists specialise in treating sensitive patients and have a range of tips and tricks up their sleeves for dispelling children's fears and distracting them.

How is caries treated?

How is caries treated?

To determine the right approach for treating childhood caries, a trip to the dentist is a must. He or she will determine what kind of treatment is required for your child depending on how advanced the caries is. The longer the tooth has been under attack and the longer the hole has existed, then the more complex the dental intervention will be. That's why you should always arrange to see the dentist as soon as possible.

Why is looking after milk teeth just as important as looking after permanent teeth?

Caries in the milk teeth of children and babies has an impact on the permanent teeth. Thorough dental hygiene with regular prophylactic cleaning is important as of the first tooth.

In addition, children with (milk tooth) caries not only suffer from the associated pain in their daily lives, childhood caries can, for example, also result in speech disorders and malposition of the permanent teeth. Dental health is an issue that affects all of us for our entire lives, right from the very first tooth.

 

How can caries in children’s teeth be prevented?

Parents take on a special role in the prevention of caries and bear a lot of responsibility for the care of their children’s teeth. Besides thorough oral care, from the first milk tooth on, care should also be taken to ensure children eat a balanced diet and consume as little sugar as possible, as sugar activates caries causing bacteria.

Nutrition and caries: Does eating fruit harm teeth?

Acids lead to caries

A balanced diet also includes fruit and vegetables. Parents should bear in mind however, that fruit often taste so good to children because it is sweet. The sweetness often comes from fructose and other sugars, which can be absorbed by many micro-organisms residing in the oral cavity, and then converted into acids. These acids lead to caries.

The following types of fruit promote caries:
Fruit varieties containing a lot of fructose Fruit varieties containing a lot of succharose Fruits containing acids
Bananas Peaches Oranges
Cherries Dates Grapefruits
Pears Melons Blueberries
  Figs Pineapple

Tips for eating fruit for healthy teeth:

  • You should rinse out your mouth with water or milk after eating acidic fruit and only then brush your teeth. After you have eaten sugary foods, you can brush your teeth straight away.
  • Simply serve a fruit salad with yogurt or quark. Children will love it and the calcium it contains helps protect the teeth from acids. 

Tips for oral care to fight caries

Careful and regular oral care is the basis for healthy milk teeth, which in turn are important for healthy and attractive permanent teeth. Care must be taken to ensure that all teeth are reached during regular brushing. The molars, for example, are more difficult to reach, but must not be neglected under any circumstances.

With the correct tooth brushing technique, the COI method, oral care always proceeds in a certain sequence: First the chewing surfaces are brushed, then the outer surfaces and finally the inner surfaces of the teeth are cleaned. Children are good at remembering this and are sure not to forget a tooth.  To be on the safe side, parents should brush a child’s teeth again, up to the elementary school age.

Apart from that, older children can familiarize themselves with the use of dental floss early on, to clean the interdental spaces – ideally once a day, in the evening, before brushing. The easiest way to get started is with floss picks suitable for children.

Provided the child can master mouth rinsing (and does not swallow it), a mild, alcohol-free mouth rinse will help. Food deposits are thus rinsed out from the interdental spaces and plaque formation is reduced – this is done in addition to tooth brushing.

In addition, regular visits to the dentist are important for oral health and caries prophylaxis in children and infants.  There should be half-yearly check-ups starting at the age of three, at the latest.

Kinder Karex is a fluoride-free toothpaste and is suitable for caries prophylaxis in children, infants and babies.

Why does Karex not offer a children's toothpaste with fluoride?

Kinder Karex toothpaste with the toothlike active ingredient hydroxyapatite is ideal for caries prophylaxis for all age groups. What's more, with Kinder Karex you don't have to worry if your child or baby should occasionally swallow the toothpaste. The natural active ingredient is well-tolerated and simply dissolves in the stomach. In the case of fluoride a maximum permitted concentration must be observed, which varies according to age. Too much fluoride must be avoided as otherwise fluorosis could occur (marks on the permanent teeth).

 

Product recommendation for caries prophylaxis in children

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