Like tiny feet and fingers, baby teeth may only be around for a little while, but they are important. Baby teeth help ensure that the permanent teeth come in properly. In addition, little ones need healthy, strong baby teeth to help them chew, speak clearly and show their bright smile.
Temporary as they may be, baby teeth are susceptible to cavities, just like adult teeth. In babies and toddlers, tooth decay is often referred to as ‘baby-bottle tooth decay’ or early childhood caries.
What Causes Baby Bottle Decay?
Early childhood caries is most often seen in the upper front teeth, but can affect any of the teeth. It occurs primarily because of prolonged exposure to liquids containing sugar. Breast milk and formula both contain a form of sugar which can cause cavities.
When a baby is put down to sleep with a bottle, or a bottle is used as a pacifier, it causes prolonged exposure to the sugary liquid inside. In addition, cavity causing bacteria can be passed from mother to baby through saliva- when a mother puts the baby spoon in her mouth, or passes saliva another way, it can introduce cavity causing bacteria into the baby’s mouth.
How to Prevent Baby Bottle Decay
The good news about cavities is that they can be prevented. Babies who get enough fluoride (from fluorinated water) have less chance of developing decay.
Avoid allowing baby to fall asleep with a bottle or to use a bottle at any time other than feeding time. Proper oral hygiene for babies is important, even before their first tooth comes in. Gently clean the gums with a soft cloth after feeding, and move up to a soft child-sized toothbrush with the appearance of the first tooth. The use of a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste is advisable until the age of 3, when a pea sized amount is recommended.
Teaching good dental habits from the start will help your baby develop good dental hygiene as they grow. Always supervise your child’s brushing to make sure teeth are getting clean. As baby grows, encourage the use of a sippy cup by her first birthday.
For more information on protecting your baby’s teeth, contact Park Saratoga Dental.