Early Childhood Caries, also known as ECC, are a major health concern and a common dental ailment seen among young children at pediatric dentist offices. These Early Childhood Caries are the presence of one or more decayed, missing, or filled tooth surfaces in a primary tooth of a child aged six years old (71 months) or younger. If left untreated, these cavities may cause deterioration in the primary and permanent teeth thus leading to many unnecessary dental visits for treatment.
You may have also heard of these childhood caries referred to as “Nursing caries”, “Baby Bottle Caries”, or “Baby Bottle Tooth Decay”. In many cases these caries are caused by inappropriate feeling with a nursing bottle. This condition along with the bottle feeding habit can lead to decaying found in the primary teeth, most commonly in the front teeth (Primary Maxillary Incisors) and can lead to the involvement of the primary molars as well. In the early phases, ECC can be seen as the teeth begin to show a dull, white demineralized enamel. Because the primary teeth are not permanent, they are inherently thinner and more fragile, and if left untreated, it’ll quickly advance to decay along the gingival margin. This opens the door for a faster decay rate, and may involve exposure to the pulp causing pain for your child.
Thankfully, you have many available options and resources readily available to help you and your children in combating this disease! To prevent ECC, it’s recommended that you schedule your child’s first dental visit within six months of the eruption of the primary teeth and no later than your child’s first birthday to assess any risks of dental disease. Along with the initial dental visit, you can encourage healthy eating habits and reduce the intake of sugary food, include a form of fluoride to your child’s diet or oral hygiene routine, and gently brush incoming teeth with a child sized toothbrush.
Luckily, there are plenty of options for treatment. Because children affected with ECC are really young, general anesthesia is typically used during procedures. Some treatments may include: the implementation of stainless steel preformed crowns or Atraumatic Restorative Treatment (ART) where the dentist may remove carious tooth tissues while restoring the cavity with an adhesive restorative material.