10 Tips to Preventing Baby and Toddler Tooth Decay
The most common baby dental issue is what’s usually referred to as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. The dental term is early childhood caries – caries is the dental term for cavities.
This is usually caused by “frequent, prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to liquids that contain sugar” (American Dental Association). Cavities form when there is a build of bacteria which thrive in areas where there are high acid levels – precisely the environment that results when sugar-containing foods and drinks are left to sit in a baby’s mouth. Common examples of cavity-inducing behaviors or habits include:
- Putting a baby to bed with a bottle – Saliva naturally rinses and cuts down on the acid sugar produces in the mouth. While a child sleeps, saliva production is minimal and increases the chances of bacterial build up. These acid attacks can last up to 20 minutes or longer and eventually wear down tooth enamel. There is no way of regenerating tooth enamel once it’s lost. Severe decay can affect overall gum health and the health of any developing and future adult teeth.
- Pacifiers dipped in sugar or honey
- Cavity-producing bacteria being passed on from the mother’s mouth from putting the baby’s spoon or pacifier in her mouth to clean it off.
Solutions to Baby and Toddler Tooth Decay
Luckily, there are many things that can be done to prevent your baby from developing tooth decay. Keeping your baby’s gums and teeth healthy starts during pregnancy with the mother keeping good care of herself. Here are a few more tips to prevent toddler tooth decay.
- Mothers need to take good care of her own oral health and avoid sharing saliva with their babies.
- After each feeding, wipe your baby’s gums “with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth. This will remove plaque and bits of food that can harm erupting teeth” (ADA).
- Once teeth start appearing, brush them with a soft toothbrush and water or a non-fluoride toothpaste. A fluoride toothpaste should not be used before the age of two, unless recommended by a dentist and then only as instructed.
- Brush your child’s teeth until he or she is at least six years old
- Avoid giving your baby juice or sugary drinks in a bottle.
- Do not put a baby down to sleep with a bottle.
- Do not dip a pacifier in honey, corn syrup or sugar. The pacifier needs to be clean.
- Aim to have the child bottle (and sippy cup!) free by age 1.
- Establish healthy eating habits that include eating of fruits and vegetables. Choose nutritious snacks and limit sweets to mealtimes.
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
Dental Care for Your Baby. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Web. Feb 9, 2012. http://www.aapd.org/publications/brochures/babycare.asp
Your Child’s First Visit to the Dentist. WebMD. Web. Feb 9, 2012. http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/childs-first-dental-visit
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. American Dental Association. Web. Feb 9, 2012. http://www.ada.org/3034.aspx