You may think you don’t need to worry about your baby’s first teeth as adult teeth will sooner or later replace them. This isn’t the case as care for baby teeth are as important as adult teeth and baby teeth can be subject to painful tooth decay in the same way as adult teeth. Children need healthy, strong teeth in order to chew food, as well as learn to speak and smile. If a child loses his or her baby teeth naturally to allow room for adult teeth, these teeth are more likely to grow into place successfully. When a child’s baby teeth are lost due to decay this has been called baby bottle tooth decay.
The causes of tooth decay from a baby’s bottle
This decay most commonly takes place in the front upper teeth but this doesn’t mean other teeth are not affected. Research has indicated that it is caused by a parent exposing their baby to soft drinks that are loaded with sugar. This product is put into a baby bottle and given to him or her when showing signs of restlessness and therefore may become hard to handle. Putting a baby into its cot with a bottle containing sweetened drinks is common practice too and contributes to tooth decay in a baby’s first teeth. Sugary drinks find their way into any small gaps in the teeth and are food for the ever present bacteria that causes tooth decay. Surface cleaning of the teeth can’t always remove this harmful product.
Bacteria can be passed from mother to baby
When a baby’s mother cleans a baby’s pacifier or bottle entry point using her mouth or puts the baby’s spoon into her mouth, even if it’s just to check the temperature or taste of the food, any bacteria in the mother’s mouth can be transferred to the baby and start the tooth decay cycle.
Ways to prevent tooth decay from a baby’s bottle
Fortunately decay in a baby’s first teeth can be prevented. One of the first things a mother should do is not to share her saliva with her baby. This means through the use of bottles, spoons and pacifiers. After feeding it’s suggested that the baby’s gums are wiped with a clean cloth. Up to age 3 years your baby’s first teeth should be brushed carefully with a small amount of toothpaste containing fluoride which is the size of a rice grain only. From ages of 3 to 6 years this should be increased to a pea size. The child should be supervised until you are sure the toothpaste isn’t going to be swallowed.
Other suggestions include:
- Placing only formula, ordinary cow’s milk or just breast milk in the baby’s bottle
- Avoid using juice, sugar water, or soft drinks in a baby’s bottle
- No bottles should be given to children when they are in bed
- A pacifier should never be dipped in sugar or even soaked in honey
- A child should be using a cup for drinking by his or her 1st birthday.
As soon as your child’s 1st tooth emerges it’s time to start arranging a dental appointment. Remember the earlier you start to think and act concerning the health of your child’s teeth the better the future outcome.