5 Medical Conditions That Increase Your Child’s Risk of Tooth Decay

Diseases that increase chances of tooth decay

We all know the importance of teaching our kids to brush, floss, and rinse with mouthwash each day. After all, bacteria grow in our mouths all the time. Without a proper oral routine, bacteria can fester and become dental plaque and calculus, which can only be removed by a dental professional. And sometimes, despite our best efforts to help our kids keep those teeth clean, tooth decay can develop. However, chronic health conditions can increase your child’s likelihood of tooth decay and cavities. Here’s what you need to know. 

Tooth decay may be more prevalent in kids with one of these medical conditions.

Though an oral care routine at home is essential, parents should know that not all tooth decay is directly related to their oral hygiene and diet. Since the whole body is interconnected, any health condition can impact oral health. Here are some examples of health conditions that can cause tooth decay.

1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)/ Acid Reflux

GERD occurs when stomach acid flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach (esophagus) repeatedly. Acid reflux is like a backwash that can irritate the lining of your esophagus. But further, acid erodes enamel and can alter the pH level in the mouth. So if your child has GERD or acid reflux, they may be at greater risk of developing tooth decay.   

2. Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2)

Diabetes is a long-lasting medical condition that affects how the body consumes food and processes it into energy. When diabetes isn’t properly controlled, it can result in higher sugar levels in the saliva. When you eat foods or beverages high in sugar, the sugar interacts with the bacteria in the mouth, turning it into acid. This acid, in turn, causes tooth decay by slowly dissolving dental enamel and creating cavities (holes) in the teeth. Thus, when the body can’t properly turn food into energy, that excess sugar can remain in the body – and on the teeth – increasing the risk of tooth decay.

3. Dry Mouth 

Saliva is critical to our oral health. You might not realize it, but the saliva in our mouths helps to rinse away the bacteria that grow inside. Dry mouth, just as it sounds, occurs when there is less than optimal saliva production. Dry mouth can result from various conditions such as sleep apnea, mouth breathing, and certain autoimmune diseases. Even certain prescription medications can cause dry mouth. If the mouth doesn’t have enough saliva to wash away the bacteria, that bacteria sits on the teeth longer between brushing and flossing and increases the risk for tooth decay.

4. Cleft Lip and Palate 

A cleft lip and cleft palate happen when a baby’s mouth or lip does not form properly in utero. A study conducted in late 2016, was published online by the Journal of Dental Research, found that cleft lips and cleft palates resulted in abnormal salivary glands. As we said earlier, salivary glands produce saliva that contains protective immune compounds that help to balance the acidity in the mouth. And that saliva helps to wash away unwanted bacteria. So those with a cleft lip and palate may not have adequate salivary glands and, as a result, can have a greater chance of developing a cavity.

5. Food Anxiety or Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Our bodies need a balanced diet to work effectively. Without adequate and balanced nutrition, we are more likely to develop infections, experience fatigue, become sick, and perform poorly at work or school. Kids that don’t have access to (or won’t eat) a balanced diet can experience developmental delays and poor performance in school, not to mention become sick more often. Further, some children are selective eaters and might not get adequate nutrition over time, which can lead to weakened tooth enamel and a higher risk of tooth decay.

Consult pediatric dental experts to keep your child’s mouth free of tooth decay.

Omaha Pediatric Dental Specialists can help lessen the risk of tooth decay in kids with serious medical conditions. We know that managing medical conditions in kids can be challenging, to say the least. Add in worries about childhood tooth decay, which can become more overwhelming. But parents don’t have to face this challenge alone. 

The team at Pediatric Dental specialists partners with your pediatrician for comprehensive, quality pediatric medical care for your child. We bring all the benefits you expect from a certified pediatric dentist and more. So if you have a medically complex child, know that you are doing the right thing by bringing them to a pediatric dentist that specializes in treating kids with disabilities, medical conditions, and other health concerns.

Omaha child dentistry makes it easy for you to get your child the best possible dental care. We offer dental care in four convenient locations: Omaha, North Platte, Grand Island, and Hastings. So if your child has a medical condition and you are worried about their increased risk of tooth decay, or you are wondering, does my child have a cavity, request an appointment today so we can set your child on a path to dental success. We look forward to partnering with you and your child.