As soon as your child’s baby teeth start to appear, the risk of tooth decay comes with them. Bottle feeding poses a specific risk to your baby’s teeth, particularly when used as a method to calm a young one. Read on to learn why and how to protect your child’s baby teeth and create a strong foundation for oral health.
Your baby’s risk of tooth decay comes from the same bacteria that live in plaque on adult teeth. Natural sugars and acids in milk and juice can feed those bacteria and weaken a baby’s enamel, promoting decay. You may sometimes put your infant to bed with a bottle in order to soothe them, but this causes prolonged exposure to decay-causing substances. Even if you take the bottle away as soon as they doze off, the sugars stay on their teeth.
You can easily understand why decay in a “permanent” adult tooth is a problem, but why worry about your child’s baby teeth, which are naturally going to come out anyway? Decay in the temporary teeth can sometimes negatively affect the development of the permanent teeth, leading to problems later that can be harder and more costly to treat. Besides, infections and damaged teeth can be painful. Preventing your child from having to experience unnecessary pain is another reason to guard against decay.
Protecting your baby’s teeth from decay should be easy if you observe a few simple steps:
Do minimize high-sugar food and drinks. Dilute fruit juice with water or don’t let your child have it at all
Do build their relationship with the dentist. At Pediatric Dental Group, we recommend that you schedule the first visit not long after your child's first birthday, just to get acquainted and get a baseline assessment of the baby’s teeth
Do practice baby-friendly oral care. Before teeth come in, wipe their gums with a soft cloth or gauze after each meal. Once your baby is teething, use a soft baby toothbrush to clean their teeth twice daily. Always be very gentle, trying to keep the experience completely positive. If baby laughs because this routine “tickles” their gums, that’s a good sign! Laugh right along with them!
Avoid these habits than can negatively impact your child's oral health:
Don’t put them down with a bottle. If you feel you must, give them a bottle filled with plain water
Don’t fear fluoride. The fluoride that is usually in tap water is safe and helps to strengthen and protect baby’s teeth. You can buy water with fluoride added if your tap water doesn’t contain it. Likewise, children’s toothpaste is formulated to be especially safe and gentle for kids. Just remember to use the recommended small amount
Don’t let the kiddie eat or drink behind you. Keep your germs out of their mouth by keeping your spoon, glass and straw out of their mouth!
Don't put off weaning. Your child should be ready to move from a bottle to a sippy cup by a year old, and leaving the bottle behind will be better for the baby’s teeth. Try to celebrate the “step up” from bottle to cup rather than making it something that feels forced or negative to your child