It’s true–baby teeth are temporary. Yet, they are important for several reasons. First, strong baby teeth help babies learn how to chew their food safely and correctly. In turn, they help babies develop early language and speaking skills. Baby teeth also occupy the spaces for permanent teeth to come in. Without question, baby teeth play a vital role in the health of teeth for years to come. Therefore, in babies with early childhood cavities and tooth decay, they risk losing teeth early, while putting their permanent teeth at risk for decay.
Sometimes called “baby bottle tooth decay,” early childhood cavities and tooth decay mostly occur in the upper front teeth. A common cause is prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to beverages with sugar. For instance, when babies are fussy, they are often put to bed with a bottle. While this serves as a pacifier for a crying infant, decay can begin over time as bacteria is allowed to sit on tiny gums and teeth. In other cases, bacteria are shared from mother to infant. For example, when a mother puts a baby’s spoon in her mouth and then puts it in the baby’s mouth, bacteria are passed through saliva.
Preventing Early Childhood Tooth Decay
The good news concerning tooth decay and your child is that it can be prevented. In turn, if the dentist has already detected cavities or decay, it can be reversed with a few simple practices. Consider the following:
- Do not share spoons or clean a baby’s pacifier with your mouth.
- Do not fill bottles or sippy cups with sugar water, juice, or carbonated drinks. Only place formula, breast milk, or milk in bottles and cups.
- Do not put your baby down for a nap or bedtime with a bottle or cup.
- Do not wait until teeth come in to begin your child’s oral health routine. Be sure to clean gums with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- When teeth come in, use a small or pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste to clean teeth.
- For babies and children that use pacifiers, do not dip them in sugar water or honey. Always provide them with a clean pacifier.
- As a goal, help your child learn to drink from a cup by his/her first birthday.
The Best Smiles Begin Early
At Grateful Dental, we place a high value on smiles, and we know that the best smiles begin early. With a caring and compassionate approach, Dr. Leia Porcaro enjoys helping children understand the value of good dental care. Whether your child’s first tooth is emerging, or if you need help with your child’s oral health regimen, you can trust the team at Grateful Dental. Call us today!