If your child has teeth,then you should be looking for signs of early childhood caries or tooth decay. Mother’s milk, baby formula, cow’s milk and fruit juice all contain sugar. Bacteria in the plaque that sticks to the teeth will convert the sugar to acid. If left on the teeth, decay can start, even at an early age.
Once your child has teeth, it is important to lift your child’s lips at least once a month and check the teeth for signs of decay. If you see any signs that may indicate decay, contact your dentist immediately to evaluate the area. Early childhood tooth decay must be treated quickly. If not, your child may have pain and infection.
- Dull white spots or lines on the teeth. This is the first sign and usually remains undetected by parents. Bacteria found in plaque change sugars into acids, which dissolve minerals in tooth enamel (demineralization). If untreated, this can lead to holes (cavities or caries) in the teeth. At this stage the demineralization can often be reversed with proper treatment.
- A yellow, brown or black area around the neck of the teeth or on the biting surfaces of the teeth. This indicates that the demineralization has progressed to a cavity. The cavity needs to be treated either with a filling or if too advanced, removal of the tooth.
- Teeth that look like brownish-black stumps This indicates that the infant has advanced cavities. The only possible treatment at this stage is removal of the affected teeth.
Here is a great link from the Canadian Pediatric Society with more information about infant/toddler teeth care. http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/healthy_teeth_for_children