Why Children Get Cavities before the Age of Five

Unfortunately, many parents neglect oral health for their young children. A common misperception is that if baby teeth are infected, these teeth will eventually fall out and the problem will fix itself. Cavities can be painful, and if left untreated, tooth decay may cause further complications. Decay can turn into infection, difficulty chewing, and possibly affect the future health of a child’s permanent teeth.

Finding out that your child has a cavity is not an unusual situation for many parents. In fact, tooth decay is regarded as a common early childhood disease. When ignored, it can lead to serious problems. According to a University of Calgary report, Early Childhood Caries (ECC) (otherwise known as “baby bottle decay”) sends one in 100 children younger than five to the hospital for day surgery.

There are a number of reasons why cavities occur among young children. One might think it’s solely due to sugar consumption, but there are often be other reasons.


Why Children Get Cavities before the Age of Five

Some parents are meticulous in maintaining their child’s dental health, only to find at the next trip to the dentist that their child has developed a cavity. It is still important to minimize a child’s exposure to sugar, in the form of desserts, sweets, and fruit juices — especially before bed. If a child has sugar before sleeping, that sugar can remain in the mouth for up to 12 hours while they sleep.


Why Children Get Cavities before the Age of Five

Tooth decay can begin with the presence of germs called mutans streptococcus. Children are not born with this type of bacteria in their systems. This bacteria feeds on sugar and produces an acid which attacks the calcium on teeth. After a period of time, part of the tooth collapses and forms a cavity.

Transmission of this bacteria to a child can be attributed to the act of the primary caregiver or parent sharing utensils and cups with a child. If an adult has this particular bacteria in their system, they can unknowingly pass it on to their child. A designated set of utensils for each child helps prevent transmission of the bacteria.

Dental Checkups

Keys to Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Another reason for childhood cavities is parents often forget to schedule dental health checkups early in their child’s formative years. It is recommended that children visit a dentist as early as age two. This helps get a jump start on supporting a child’s health, and allows parents to learn how to prevent cavities and other dental problems.


What a child eats can contribute to the early onset of cavities. Even parents who feed their children a healthy diet and minimize the introduction of sugars, simple carbohydrates and fruit acids can influence the development of cavities. Carbohydrates turn into acid when metabolized, which feeds the bacteria that contributes to cavities. Similarly, acid from fruit can contribute to decay. Children can be taught to swish water in their mouth after consuming fruit to help rinse any remaining acid on the teeth and gums.


Have your child checked by a dentist. Introducing them slowly to dental care at an early age allows them to become comfortable in the chair. By watching parents and other family members get regular cleanings, they’ll come to understand that checkups are an easy, pain-free experience. Cosmo Dental Center cares about your child’s dental needs. Schedule an appointment for your child today by calling us at (519) 659-2767.

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