Tooth decay is damage to a tooth caused by plaque. Plaque is a thin film of bacteria that sticks to the teeth above and below the gum line. If plaque isn't removed from the teeth, it can build up and harden into tartar. The bacteria in plaque and tartar use sugars in food to make acids. These acids can cause tooth decay and gum disease.
Any part of your child's tooth can decay, from the roots below the gum line to the chewing surface. Decay can affect the outer layer (enamel) and inner layer (dentin) of your child's teeth. The deeper the decay, the worse the damage.
Untreated tooth decay will get worse and may lead to tooth loss. If your child has a small hole (cavity), your dentist can repair it by removing the decay and filling the hole. If the tooth has deeper decay, your child may need more treatment. A very badly damaged tooth may have to be removed.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your dentist if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
If your child has pain and swelling from a decayed tooth:
Experts recommend that your child have a dental examination within 6 months after the first teeth appear or at 12 months of age, whichever comes first. Your child's dentist will recommend how often to have routine checkups. Many people should see their dentists once or twice a year. Your dentist may recommend fluoride treatments or a sealant.
Call your dentist now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your dentist if your child has any problems.
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Current as of: August 9, 2016
Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
& Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
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