Early Childhood Caries (ECC)

The destruction of tooth enamel in children under 6 years of age, is one of the most prevalent infectious diseases amongst North American children.

Advice On Early Childhood Caries (ECC) in Terrace

What Is It?

Early Childhood Caries (ECC), or the destruction of tooth enamel in children under 6 years of age, is one of the most prevalent infectious diseases amongst North American children. While its causes are many and multifactorial, ECC always results from a combination of sugar, bacteria and time. Bacteria naturally living in the mouth survive by feeding off sugars in the diet, such as from milk, pop, juice, cakes or candy. These bacteria accumulate to form plaque, and produce enamel-destroying acid as a result. As the time between cleanings lengthens and the number of bacteria multiplies, so does the amount of acid on the teeth. More acid means more wearing of the enamel, and, eventually, tooth decay. It is important to note that plaque may grow in your child’s mouth even before the eruption of the first tooth.

How Can It Be Prevented?

There is good news! Early childhood caries are 100% preventable. As a parent and role model, you can make all the difference in your child’s dental health by promoting good oral hygiene habits even before any teeth are visible and maintaining these habits throughout the child’s youth. We urge you to take the following steps of action to prevent ECC in your child:

Cleaning Your Baby’s Mouth:

Wrap a soft, damp cloth around your index finger to gently wipe the child’s gums from back to front, and take away any leftover milk or formula. Repeat this step after each feeding.

Cleaning Your Child’s Teeth:

  • Ensure that your child’s teeth are brushed with fluoride-containing toothpaste at least 2 times per day (after breakfast and before bedtime). Ideally, brushing takes place after each meal.
  • Ensure that tight contacts between your child’s teeth are flossed every day.

For more information on how to care for your and your child’s teeth, please see our ‘Oral Self-Care’ leaflet.

Is your child ready to brush his or her own teeth? Your child is ready to brush without assistance when he or she is able to handwrite (not print) his or her name, and no sooner. It is difficult for your child to hold and move a toothbrush well enough to reach all areas of his or her teeth. We, therefore, recommend that you assist your child with brushing until he or she is able to do so alone.

How Can We Make Your Child’s Treatment Experience as Comfortable as Possible?

Once your child’s teeth are weakened by decay, there is no way to reverse the damage. Early and professional dental intervention is the key to managing ECC. At Horizon Dental, we offer different levels of patient management to accommodate various degrees of ECC severity and patient anxiety, as outlined below.

In-Office: No Anaesthesia

Patients who have built a trusting relationship with our dental team, and whose dental work is minor, often do not require any anaesthesia. Children often do very well with the treatment, but decay must be identified early on. Procedures normally performed without anaesthesia include the application of sealants, dental cleanings and treatment of early decay.

In-Office: Dental Anaesthesia (Freezing)

Our dentists usually recommend the administration of local anaesthetic (freezing) around a more severely affected tooth, prior to performing treatment. The administration of local anaesthetic is independent of your child’s anxiety level, and serves solely to eliminate any physical discomfort associated with treatment.


In-Office: Dental Anaesthesia With Nitrous Oxide (N2O)

Some of our pediatric patients express overwhelming apprehension towards dental treatment. To help such patients feel more at ease during their treatment, we typically offer the calming agent, nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, in conjunction with freezing for more extensive treatment.

Hospital Operating Room: General Anaesthesia

At times when one or more teeth must be extracted, dental treatment is usually performed under General Anaesthesia (GA) in the hospital’s operating room. The effects of GA, induced and monitored by an anaesthetist, include unconsciousness and unresponsiveness to pain throughout the duration of treatment. Our dentists schedule hospital days in Terrace as they are allotted. At times, our hospital wait lists are long as our OR days are limited, and it could be months before your child can be seen – please call us to make an appointment as soon as you notice changes in the appearance of your child’s teeth.

Keep in Mind the Following

Contrary to popular belief, having a parent hold the child’s hand during treatment rarely makes the procedure easier. Often it causes the procedure to take longer than necessary, and may also compromise the quality of results. Two of our treatment operatories are designed with an observation area behind the treatment area. From here, parents may see and hear their child’s treatment but remain unobserved by the child. This allows the dental team to focus on the child, and the child to focus on the dental team throughout treatment. We urge parents to instill in their children a sense of trust in the dental team from a young age.

Dental Treatments

We offer a range of dental treatments for patients in Terrace.

Skip to content