Tooth decay in children under the age of 6 is termed Early Childhood Caries (ECC). In Singapore, 55% of preschool children are affected by ECC. Whether caries occurs in adults or children, it is 100% preventable.
We are all familiar with the appearance of a hole or a cavity in our teeth. However, by the time a layman sees this cavity, it is irreversible and necessitates expensive dental intervention. This is particularly true in primary teeth, where you start off with thinner enamel and dentine. If there is a stage in the disease process where the disease can be reversed, would you be interested?
The process of tooth decay takes time and does not happen overnight. It usually begins with early signs of ECC, which present as White Spot Lesions (WSL) on tooth surfaces. These white spots appear as chalky areas on the enamel surface. They are often found under plaque.
WSL are signs of enamel demineralisation. The WSL is the precursor to the cavity. As demineralisation progresses, parents often complain that their child’s teeth keep breaking off, or they can scrape bits of tooth off. WSL can turn brown and the tooth surfaces will start to break off to form cavities.
Untreated cavities can lead to pain, swelling, loss of appetite and sleep, damage to the developing permanent teeth, or in severe cases, systemic infection.
WSL are not obvious to caregivers unless you look for them. They do not cause pain. It is only at this stage that decay can be reversed. Once the WSL has progressed to become a cavity, reversal is not possible.
In order to reverse WSL, you have to understand the factors that cause it. An interaction of many factors results in ECC. These causes include (but are not limited to):
Prevention is the best option in the management of ECC. If you find a white spot lesion or lesions on your child’s teeth, you should bring your child to the dentist as soon as possible. You have a small window period whereby prevention and early treatment can be done.
While waiting for your appointment, read the checklist below for preventive steps recommended.
Early preventive dental visits enable the dentist to assess the child’s risk of getting ECC, catch the early signs of ECC (if any), and recommend appropriate customised preventive measures to arrest and prevent the progression of the disease.
The information provided on this page does not replace information from your healthcare professional. Please consult your healthcare professional for more information.
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