Tooth decay develops when the teeth are exposed to any liquids or foods other than water for long periods. The liquid or food collects around the teeth, and the natural or added sugars are changed to acid by bacteria in the mouth. This acid then dissolves the outer part of the teeth causing them to decay.
This commonly happens when children are put to bed with a bottle of formula, milk, juice, soft drinks, sugar water, or sugared drinks.
Taking good care of your child’s teeth must start even before the first tooth appears. You can prevent tooth decay in your child by following good dental habits.
Tooth decay can develop as soon as the first tooth erupts. Brushing every day may not be enough to prevent it. If tooth decay is not prevented it can be costly to treat. If left untreated, it can destroy the teeth. This can cause infection, early loss of baby teeth, crooked adult teeth, and decay in adult teeth.
Tooth decay is caused by certain types of bacteria that live in your mouth. When they stick to the film on your teeth called dental plaque, they can do damage. The bacteria feed on what you eat, especially sugars (including fruit sugars) and cooked starch (bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, etc.). Within about 5 minutes after you eat, or drink, the bacteria begin making acids as they digest your food. Those acids can break into the outer surface of the tooth and melt away some of the minerals. Your spit can balance the acid attack if they don’t happen very often.
However if: 1) your mouth is dry,2) you have a lot of these bacteria, or 3) your snack frequently; and then acid causes loss of tooth minerals. This is the start of tooth decay and leads to cavities.