Tooth decay is a disease that begins with cavity-causing bacteria being passed from the mother (or primary caregiver) who has these bacteria in their mouth to the infant. These bacteria are passed through the saliva. When the mother puts the baby’s feeding spoon in her mouth, or cleans a pacifier in her mouth, the bacteria are passed to the baby.
Another factor for tooth decay is the frequent, prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to liquids that contain sugar, like sweetened water and fruit juice and potentially milk, breast milk and formula. Tooth decay can occur when the baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby. The sugary liquids pool around the teeth while the child sleeps.
The good news is that tooth decay is almost completely preventable. You can help prevent tooth decay for your child by following the tips below:
- Improving the oral health of the mother/caregiver which reduces the number of bacteria in her mouth and by not sharing saliva with the baby through common use of feeding spoons or licking pacifiers and giving them to babies.
- After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth. This will remove plaque and bits of food that can harm erupting teeth. When your child’s teeth begin to erupt, brush them gently with a child’s size toothbrush and water.
- When your child can be counted on to spit and not swallow toothpaste (usually not before age two), begin brushing the teeth with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
- Brush your child’s teeth until he or she is at least six years old.
- Place only formula, milk or breastmilk in bottles. Avoid filling the bottle with liquids such as sugar water, juice or soft drinks.
- Infants should finish their bedtime and naptime bottles before going to bed.
- Encourage children to drink from a cup by their first birthday and discourage frequent or prolonged use of a training (sippy) cup.
- Encourage healthy eating habits that include a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Serve nutritious snacks and limit sweets to mealtimes.
- Ensure that your child has adequate exposure to fluoride. Discuss your child’s fluoride needs with your dentist or pediatrician.
Following these steps will ensure that your child grows up to have a healthy smile. In addition, it is important to instill good oral hygiene habits when your child is young so they can learn to take care of their teeth early on. If you would like to save on dental procedures for you and your family the visit True Dental Discounts for a low cost dental plan that is right for you.