When we were little, it might have been more commonplace for parents to give babies sugar-coated pacifiers or share spoons with their little ones. But in the years since, studies have shown that these seemingly harmless behaviors can negatively affect your baby’s dental health. In fact, they can contribute to what’s known as “baby bottle tooth decay.”
Baby bottle tooth decay, also called early childhood caries, occurs when your baby’s teeth are exposed to sugars, which can be found in milk, juice, and formula. It primarily affects the upper front teeth, but other teeth can develop cavities as well. Though your child’s baby teeth will eventually be replaced by permanent teeth, paying special attention to your little one’s dental health now will set them up to enjoy a healthy smile later on!
And the compassionate team at Dentistry for Children is here to help. Our practice specializes in the care of children, and we’ve built up a team of professionals who understand pediatric medicine and oral development.
Read on to learn about how you can prevent baby bottle tooth decay. Then, give us a call at any of our three locations near Murray, UT to schedule an appointment.
Tip #1: Avoid sharing saliva with your infant.
When a pacifier drops on the floor, it’s almost instinctual for some parents to clean it off with their mouths. Similarly, if your little one refuses to eat their baby food, you might take a bite yourself to demonstrate how delicious it is. But both habits can expose your baby to bacteria present in your mouth, which can contribute to baby bottle tooth decay.
Tooth decay occurs when bacteria feed on the sugars in your mouth or your baby’s mouth. When the bacteria feed on the sugars, they produce a weak acid that irritates the gums and erodes enamel, the protective outer layer of teeth.
This tip runs contrary to a highly publicized study from several years back, which claimed that sucking on your baby’s pacifier to clean it off could help build up your child’s immune system. After these reports surfaced, the American Dental Association responded, saying that parents should be cautious when heeding the advice, due to the increased risk of early childhood tooth decay.
So what’s a better way to clean your baby’s pacifier? Rinsing it off in water is always a good option. There are also special pacifier wipes on the market that are non-toxic and easy to use.
Tip #2: Start Brushing Your Child’s Teeth As Soon As The First One Erupts.
Your baby has one tooth? Perfect! It’s time to start brushing their tooth twice a day.
Obviously, your little one won’t need much toothpaste at all. Just squeeze a grain-of-rice-sized dab of toothpaste on a child-sized toothbrush, and gently brush.
Continue using this much toothpaste until your child is roughly 3 years old. Then, increase the size of the toothpaste smear to a pea-sized amount.
Tip #3: Before Your Baby Has Teeth, Gently Clean The Gums.
You can set your baby up for great oral health before their first tooth even erupts! After your little one eats, gently wipe their gums with a clean, damp piece of gauze or a washcloth.
The same sugars that cause tooth decay can lead to an infection of the gums. Cleaning your child’s mouth regularly can help prevent gum disease.
Tip #4: Don’t Add Sugar To Your Child’s Bottle Or Pacifier.
Adding sugar to your child’s pacifier or bottle might make it more enticing, but it also isn’t a great habit to get into. Dipping your child’s pacifier in sugar to encourage its use, or filling a bottle with sugar water can put your child at an increased risk of tooth decay. Plus, exposing your baby to too much sugar early in life can skew their taste preferences later on, which can make it hard to eat a balanced diet.
Try to only fill your infant’s bottle with milk or formula. And when your little one is old enough to enjoy fruit juices and soft drinks, encourage moderation.
Tip #5: Fluoride Is Safe For Infants.
Fluoride is effective at protecting and strengthening tooth enamel, which prevents tooth decay. And, it’s safe for your little one! So, when selecting a toothpaste, opt for one that contains fluoride.
Fluoridated drinking water will also help prevent cavities. The American Dental Association has said that it is safe to reconstitute infant formula with fluoridated water.
And of course, feel free to consult with the experts at Dentistry for Children! We’re on your team, cheering your child on toward a healthy smile. Call us at any of our three locations. You can also use our online form to request an appointment or ask questions.