How to Keep Your Baby’s Teeth Healthy

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Even though they are temporary, your baby’s teeth are important, and are still susceptible to cavities. Baby teeth are necessary for chewing, speaking, and smiling. They also serve as placeholders for the adult teeth. If baby bottle tooth decay often called bottle rot, is left untreated, pain and infection can result. Severely decayed teeth may need to be removed. If teeth are infected or lost too early due to baby bottle tooth decay, your child may develop poor eating habits, speech problems, crooked teeth, and damaged adult teeth. In addition, the chances that adult teeth will end up being crooked are greatly increased.

Baby bottle tooth decay is caused by the frequent and long-term exposure of a child’s teeth to liquids containing sugars. You may not realize that baby bottle tooth decay can come from drinks that you don’t think of as sugary such as milk and formula, Among these liquids are your typical sugary and sweet drinks such as fruit juice, sodas and other sweetened drinks. The sugars in these liquids pool around the infant’s teeth and gums, feeding the bacteria that cause plaque. Every time a child consumes a sugary liquid, acid attacks the teeth and gums. The condition also is associated with breast-fed babies who have prolonged feeding habits. After numerous attacks, tooth decay begins.

Baby bottle tooth decay most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected. Tooth decay might first appear as white spots at the gum line on the upper front teeth. These spots are hard to see at first even for a child’s doctor or dentist without proper equipment. A child with tooth decay needs to be examined and treated early to stop the decay from spreading and to prevent further damage.

There are many factors which can cause tooth decay. One common cause is the frequent, prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to drinks that contain sugar. 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.

Whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle-feed, it is important to take good care of your baby’s teeth.

Below we have included some easy to remember tips to best help you and your baby’s dental health!

  1. Birth to 12 months: Keep your baby’s mouth clean by gently wiping the gums with a clean baby washcloth. 12 to 36 months: Brush your child’s teeth 2 times per day for 2 minutes. The best times to brush are after breakfast and before bed.
  2. Never put your child to bed with a bottle or food. This not only exposes your child’s teeth to sugars but can also put your baby at risk for choking.
  3. Do not use a bottle or sippy cup as a pacifier or let your child walk around with or drink from one for long periods. If your child wants to have the bottle or sippy cup in between meals, fill it with only water.
  4. Teach your child to drink from a regular cup as soon as possible, preferably by 12 to 15 months of age. Drinking from a cup is less likely to cause liquid to collect around the teeth. Also, a cup cannot be taken to bed.
  5. Limit the amount of sweet or sticky foods your child eats, such as candy, gummies, or cookies. It is important to remember sugar is in foods like crackers and chips too. Another helpful tip to teach your child is how to use his or her tongue to clean food immediately off the teeth. This not only teaches your baby food awareness but can decrease cavities.
Shoshi S.
Shoshi is a graduate from Stern College for Women in New York City. Her areas of interest include policy, non-profit organizations, and administration. During winter 2018, she was a White House intern. Shoshi has also interned at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and at Save the Children in New York. As a millennial, Shoshi brings a young and fresh perspective to the worlds of pregnancy and lactation.

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