Good oral hygiene doesn’t start when a child begins to get their teeth. It actually starts the day they are born. Healthy habits that are started from the very beginning are more likely to remain as second nature. You should start taking care of your child’s mouth early enough, even though their baby teeth will eventually fall off in their growing years.
These baby teeth are still susceptible to tooth decay through cavities. This condition of tooth decay in an infants’ baby teeth is generally known as baby bottle tooth decay. There are several causes of baby bottle tooth decay. The most common cause is exposing baby’s teeth to sugary drinks for extended periods of time.
According To American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD):
In order to keep your baby’s teeth safe from tooth decay, follow these tips that will help you keep your child’s mouth healthy:
• Finish Bottles Before Bedtime or Napping – Don’t allow your child to begin the habit of falling asleep with their bottle. It promotes the growth of bacteria and can seriously damage baby teeth as they begin to erupt through the gums.
• Don’t Exchange Saliva – Try to avoid licking or eating from your child’s eating utensils. The transfer of bacteria and enzymes can cause disruptions in your baby’s sensitive digestive tract.
• Offer Clean Pacifiers – Avoid dipping pacifiers in honey or sugar to get your child to take them. Instead, offer freshly washed pacifiers. Dipping pacifiers in sugar creates an environment that not only fosters infection but also promotes tooth decay.
• Begin Brushing Early – As soon as your child’s teeth begin to show, use a soft brush and gently clean their teeth after meals. When they are old enough to brush their teeth on their own, make sure to supervise them to ensure they are cleaning each tooth and not swallowing the toothpaste.
• Offer Healthy Foods – Guiding their food choices from day one is extremely important. Offer healthy foods and encourage them to chew their food completely before swallowing. Frozen foods can be offered when children are older to help cut back teeth.
• Only Use a Formula in Bottles – Avoid putting juices, soda pop or other sugary drinks in bottles. This will encourage the child to use a sippy cup as he or she gets older. Try to use only sippy cups after the first year to reduce the amount of time sugary liquids are held in the mouth.
Tips for Toddlers & Young Children as recommended by AAPD:
Encourage children to drink from a cup by their first birthday; a training (sippy) cup is only meant to serve as a transitional tool from helping kids adjust from the bottle to cup.
Only put water in sippy cups—except during mealtime. By filling the sippy cup with juice, or even milk, and allowing a child to drink from it throughout the day, bathes the child’s teeth in cavity causing bacteria.
Parents should dispense a ‘pea-size’ amount of toothpaste and perform or assist w/their child’s tooth-brushing.
Supervise child when brushing and teach him/her to spit out, not swallow, the toothpaste.
Help child develop good eating habits early and choose sensible, nutritious snacks.
These tips can help you prevent tooth decay in your baby’s teeth. Make sure to schedule a dental visit for your infant when the first tooth appears. It will ensure your baby has good dental health for life.