Did you know that tooth decay can develop as soon as your baby’s first tooth comes in? Your baby’s tiny chompers are important to their oral development. Losing their teeth to decay prematurely can cause the rest of their teeth to shift out of place by taking up space needed by their adult teeth when they are pushing through the gums.
Tooth Decay in Infants?
Decaying baby teeth is actually the most prevalent infectious disease in childhood and is referred to as baby bottle tooth decay. Even though their teeth are tiny, tooth decay in babies can often be costly and painful and leave them vulnerable to serious infection. By practicing daily oral care early on, your child will have the best chance at a healthy smile. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents to know what causes infant tooth decay, watch out for telltale signs of decay and actively prevent these dental caries from developing.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby teeth are vulnerable to sugar’s pitfalls from the drinks they constantly consume over time. If that sugary coating isn’t cleaned off of their tiny chompers daily, decay can set in. Think about the liquids your baby consumes daily, most likely milk, formula, fruit juice, soda and more via their bottle. As the liquids bathe their teeth and gums in sugar, the bad bacteria in the mouth feed on it, leaving a sticky film in their mouth called plaque.
Plaque can form around their tiny teeth even if they are breastfed if they drink for long periods of time without having their teeth cleaned during the day. And of course, you never want to dip their pacifier in any kind of honey, syrup or sugar for all the same reasons. So when your baby goes down for the night or long daytime naps, don’t settle them to sleep with a sugar-filled baby bottle marinating their teeth in sweetness.
Keeping Away Cavities
You can keep cavities from invading your infant’s smile by practicing the following:
- Don’t let your baby fall asleep with milk, formula, juice or other sweetened liquids in their bottle.
- To change their bedtime bottle ingredients, you want to slowly introduce the non-sweetened contents by diluting their drink with water. This can take anywhere from two to three weeks to make the switch. This will help them get used to it without making them fussy.
- Ultimately, the goal is to give your baby a bottle containing only water. You can also give them a clean pacifier.
- During the day, it is also a good idea to lessen their dependence on sweets, particularly if they are snacking between meals.
- Using a clean, moistened washcloth or gauze, wipe their gums once a day and gently massage them to help with teething.
- When your child’s first tooth comes in, you can brush the tooth with a soft toothbrush and a rice-sized amount of toothpaste. As your baby develops and is able to spit, you can use fluoride toothpaste.
- Bring your baby to our dentist for their first dental visit anywhere from 6 to 12 months, especially if a tooth has come in.
- When your baby is old enough to drink from a sippy cup, you can wean them completely off the bottle.
Sugar vs. Saliva
Baby bottle tooth decay can seriously impact your little one’s oral development. When they sleep, their saliva production slows down, so it isn’t as effectively washing away the sugary liquids that may be coating their teeth. If plaque is allowed to accumulate without being removed daily, decay can set in and cause them pain. If their teeth are severely decayed from a long-term lack of oral hygiene care, they will likely need to be extracted.
The best thing you can do for your baby’s developing smile is to help them establish lifelong daily oral hygiene habits. This can help them have the strong and healthy teeth they deserve!