Parents are thrilled when they see the first baby teeth erupt in their child. It is an important milestone in a baby’s development. And once those first teeth become apparent, it is time to begin good dental care that can help prevent childhood tooth decay.
Childhood tooth decay, often known as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, is unfortunately, quite common, and is most often caused by allowing the baby to suckle on a bottle late at night, or letting the child go to sleep while feeding. Milk contains a high level of sugar, and even breast milk contains a high level of sugar. This long-term exposure to sugar can create risk for tooth decay. The decay occurs most often in the child’s upper incisors.
Approximately 42% of children ages 2 to 11 develop a cavity in their primary teeth, and nearly 28% of children ages 2 to 5 develop at least one cavity, reports the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
6 Ways to Prevent Childhood Tooth Decay
Avoid Night Feedings
Nursing and feeding should occur at regular intervals and not be an “all-night” routine. Too-often feedings frequently occur when the baby shares the bed with a parent.
Wean from the Bottle
By the age of one, a child should be encouraged to drink from a cup instead of a bottle.
As soon as the first tooth appears, parents should begin brushing their child’s teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled brush, just as they would their own teeth, with one brushing right before bedtime. Prior to the eruption of teeth, parents should gently clean their child’s gums with a soft, damp washcloth.
Wanting to share food with a baby is a natural instinct, but sharing feeding utensils, straws or even bites from the same foods can transfer bacteria from one mouth to another. If parents want to demonstrate how to eat, they should use their own utensils.
Eliminate Sugary Drinks
As the child grows older, parents can allow them to sip on fruit juices or sugary drinks like sodas and sports drinks, which are particularly high in acids and sugars that can eat away dental enamel. Substitute water instead. Don’t allow children to suck on candy or highly-sugary foods for prolonged periods of time.
Visit Your Dentist Regularly
Regular dental visits should begin about the time of the first tooth, and continue throughout a lifetime. This way, the dentist can check for anomalies and monitor progress to ensure good dental health.
Does Your Baby Have a First Tooth?
Although baby teeth will eventually fall out and be replaced by permanent teeth, they play an important role in future dental health. As they act as a placeholder for permanent teeth, baby teeth that are lost early can cause the permanent teeth to come in misaligned, crooked or crowded. Missing baby teeth can also create other problems such as a speech or eating impediment.
Prevention of childhood tooth decay begins with the first tooth. If you are looking for a lifelong family dentist and live in the Northern Virginia area, please contact Advanced Family Dentistry. We’ll be glad to consult with you on proper dental care for babies, infants and toddlers, and to provide expert dental services for the entire family. Contact us today to set your appointment.