Tooth decay can affect your children at a very young age. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry estimates that 28 percent of children ages 2 to 5 have already had cavities. Early childhood cavities, commonly called Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, is a serious problem, but one that can be easily prevented.
What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay causes cavities in children under age five. The condition gets its name from the practice of putting babies to bed with bottles. When a child falls asleep, small amounts of milk tend to pool in the mouth. Milk and formula contain natural sugars. If the sugars mix with the bacteria in the mouth, acids are created that attack tooth enamel and cause cavities.
Is Milk (or Formula) the Only Culprit?
Although the condition is called "Baby Bottle" Tooth Decay, it doesn't just affect babies and can be caused by a variety of factors. Giving your baby or young child juice frequently may also increase the risk that your son or daughter will develop cavities. In some cases, early childhood cavities can develop if you share spoons with your child or clean a dirty pacifier in your mouth before handing it to your child. The problem occurs when the bacteria present in your mouth is transferred to your child through your saliva.
How Can I Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
These tips will help your child avoid Baby Bottle Tooth Decay:
- Do Not Let Your Baby Linger Over a Bottle. Do not give your baby a bottle at bedtime or let him or her use the bottle as a pacifier for hours. The longer your child's mouth is exposed to sugars, the greater the chance he or she will develop cavities.
- Substitute Cups for Bottles. By age one, your child should be able to drink out of a sippy cup. Since it's important to remain upright when drinking out of a cup, milk or juice is less likely to pool in your child's mouth.
- Dilute Juice. Fill cups and bottles with a mixture of one-half water and one-half juice to decrease the sugar content of the juice. Serve juice at meal times only to minimize your child's exposure to sugar. Better yet, offer water instead.
- Make Good Oral Hygiene Part of Your Child's Daily Routine. Clean your baby's gums with a moist piece of gauze or a washcloth after every feeding. When your baby's first tooth appears, brush it twice every day with a small amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
- Serve Fruits and Vegetables Instead of Sugary Snacks. Fruits and vegetables are the better choice for your child's overall and oral health. Cookies and candy should be occasional treats, not everyday snacks, due to their high sugar content. Gummy candies are particularly dangerous because tiny pieces tend to remain on your child's teeth long after he or she has finished eating.
- Make Regular Dental Visits a Priority. Take your child to the dentist within six months after his or her first tooth appears or no later than age one. If he or she does have a cavity, prompt treatment will prevent the decay from spreading.
Is it time for your child's first dental visit? Call us today to schedule an appointment.
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry: State of Little Teeth
American Dental Association: Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Colgate: Treating Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
HealthyChildren.org: How to Prevent Tooth Decay in Your Baby, 5/15/15
Medline Plus: Tooth Decay – Early Childhood, 2/22/16
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All About Baby Teeth
Baby teeth may not seem very important, but they play a crucial role in your child's oral health. Take a look at a few facts about primary teeth.
There is a Pattern to the Appearance of Baby Teeth
The two bottom front teeth usually appear first, followed by the top two front teeth. First teeth generally appear when your baby is between 6 months and 1 year old. Usually, the first teeth to appear are the first ones your child loses when the permanent teeth begin to erupt.
Losing Baby Teeth Can Affect Permanent Teeth
Baby teeth create space for permanent teeth and help guide them into the proper position. If your child loses a baby tooth prematurely, the permanent tooth may grow in crooked or might even be damaged if tooth decay in the baby tooth was extensive.
Baby Teeth are Essential to Your Child's Development
Baby teeth are needed to chew and bite. They also help your child form words correctly. Even at a young age, missing or damaged teeth can affect a child's self-esteem and may affect his or her social development.