by: Dr. Tom Swanlund
Dental decay otherwise known as cavities is caused by oral bacteria. There are a few specific types of oral bacteria that cause cavities and these can be transmitted from person to person. The oral bacteria of a parent can also be transmitted from parent to infant.
It is well known when an infant co=\-s into the world, the oral cavity is sterile but soon after arriving the mouth becomes colonized with bacteria. Some of these bacteria may put the child at increased risk of dental decay when the baby's teeth start to erupt into the mouth.
As with adult teeth, it is important to keep the baby teeth clean and free of food/liquids to prevent decay of the tooth structure.
Baby teeth are crucial for jaw and bite development. If a tooth becomes decayed in a young child it is important to have it fixed because the baby tooth holds the spot where the adult tooth will one day erupt. If a tooth is lost prematurely the empty space may be impeded on by adjacent teeth and the teeth may become misaligned or crowded possibly causing jaw or bite problems in the future. Also, if a cavity is left in a baby tooth it may travel down the interior portion where the nerve is to the tip of the root and infect or damage the adult tooth underneath. Cavities can also cause pain for the child when eating or drinking.
Babies and young children with teeth are just as prone to decay as adults if they are consuming liquids and solids. Oral bacteria which cause decay need carbohydrates in order to survive. If a child drinks milk, juice, or eats teething biscuits, cereals, or even fruits the bacteria will consume it and this will drop the oral pH which increases the chance of a cavity.