Educate & Inform
Your child’s baby teeth are important. Baby teeth not only help children chew, speak and smile but more importantly, maintain a space in the jaw for the adult teeth. If a baby tooth becomes decayed, it may cause pain, infection and may need to be removed. If a baby tooth is removed too early, the teeth beside it may drift into the empty space. Subsequently, the resulting space loss can cause the adult teeth to come in crowded and crooked.
“Baby bottle tooth decay” is the term given to tooth decay when it is caused by sweetened liquids left in contact to an infant’s teeth for long periods. Any sweet liquids cause problems, including milk, formula and fruit juice. Bacteria in the mouth feed off these sugars and produce acids that attack the teeth and cause decay. Each time your child drinks these liquids, acids attack for 60 minutes or longer if not washed off. It can destroy the teeth and most often occurs in the upper front teeth if the liquid is fed through a bottle. After many attacks, the teeth can decay in an “apple core” pattern and may cause swelling and infection.
It’s not just what you put in your child’s bottle that causes decay, but how often — and for how long a time. Giving your child a bottle of sweetened liquid many times a day increases acid exposure to your child’s teeth. Allowing your child to fall asleep with a bottle during naps or at night can also harm the child’s teeth.
Young children and infants lack the manual dexterity to be able to care for their own teeth. As parents, it is your responsibility to help your young child clean their teeth. To get your child in the habit of cleaning their teeth and mouth, it is best to start this habit even before your child has teeth. With a warm, soft washcloth, you can wipe all areas of the mouth including the gums and teeth. Once your child has teeth, you can start using a soft toothbrush and a very small amount of toothpaste to clean their teeth. When your child is able to write (not print) words, your child may be able to do a better job of cleaning their teeth, but parents should always check to make sure your child has done a thorough job.
Tips for Tooth Decay Prevention
Sometimes parents do not realize that a baby’s teeth can decay soon after they appear in the mouth. By the time decay is noticed, it may be too late to save the teeth. You can help prevent this from happening to your child by following the tips below:
- Lie your baby/ young child in a comfortable place and make sure you have a clear view into their mouth
- After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums with a clean wash cloth. Begin brushing your child’s teeth when the first tooth erupts. Do not use toothpaste until the first tooth erupts. Clean and massage gums in areas that remain toothless, and begin flossing when all the baby teeth have erupted, usually by age 2 or 2½.
- Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquids.
- Between regular feedings, at night, or during naps, give the child a clean pacifier instead of a bottle filled with juice or milk as a comforter. Never give your child a pacifier dipped in any sweet liquid.
- Sugar water and soft drinks should never be used to fill your child’s bottle.
- Start dental visits by the child’s first birthday. Make visits regularly. If you think your child has dental problems, take the child to the dentist as soon as possible.