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Early Childhood Cavities

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 4, 2024.

What are early childhood cavities (ECC)?

ECC are holes or decay that form in or on your child's teeth. This usually happens before he or she is 6 years old. The cavities can start as soon as the tooth starts to erupt (push through the gum tissue). ECC is sometimes called night bottle mouth or baby bottle tooth decay. Cavities are caused by bacteria. The bacteria mix with carbohydrates from foods and create acids. The acids break down areas of enamel, which covers the outside of a tooth.

Tooth Decay

What increases my child's risk for ECC?

What are the signs or symptoms of ECC?

The earliest signs are white spots along the gum line, near the upper front teeth. You may not be able to see these spots. Your child may not have any symptoms if cavities have just started to form. When cavities reach deeper parts of your child's tooth, he or she may have pain. Your child may also have any of the following:

How are ECC diagnosed?

The dentist will look at your child's teeth to check for signs of decay or cavities. He or she may also use x-rays to find cavities.

How are ECC treated?

Treatment is important, even in baby teeth. Healthy teeth at a young age will help your child have healthy teeth as an adult. Depending on your child's age, he or she may need any of the following:

How can I help my child prevent ECC?

How do I brush my child's teeth?

Teach Children to Brush and Floss

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my child's dentist?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.