While cavities are on the decline in the general population, they are a fact of life for increasing numbers of young children, according to the Centers for Disease Control. They affect 10 percent of 2-year-olds and over half of 5-year-olds, causing everything from minor toothaches to missed school days to complications that require major surgery. But dentists say few people realize that cavities are symptoms of dental caries, the most common chronic disease in children today, according to the CDC.
Caries is caused by a transmissible bacteria that produces acids in the mouth when we eat anything with carbohydrates, including sugary or starchy foods. Those acids dissolve the teeth, and without good oral health practices, they can lead to tooth decay - cavities. But cavities are preventable if the underlying caries is managed.
Although we aren't born with the bacteria that causes caries, most kids will get it at some point - by sharing a lollipop or a drink with a classmate, for instance. But the later they get the bacteria, the less likely they are to develop severe caries.
That means caregivers who have ever had cavities should take simple precautions with their babies. They shouldn't put a baby's spoon or pacifier in their own mouths before giving it to the baby, for instance.
They should also take children to the dentist before age 1 to determine their risk factors for caries, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
(image via: http://box4kids.blogspot.com)