Although they are temporary, your child’s milk teeth are important and are still susceptible to tooth decay. Dental caries in infants and young children is often referred to as bottle cavities or cavities in early childhood. Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food, talk and have an attractive smile. Your first teeth also help make sure your adult teeth fit properly. It is important to start babies with good oral care to help protect their teeth in the coming decades.
Dental caries occur most frequently in the upper front teeth, but other teeth can also be affected.
There are many factors that can cause tooth decay. A common cause is the frequent and prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to beverages containing sugar. Tooth decay can occur when the baby is lying down with a bottle or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a restless baby.
Dental caries is a disease that can begin with the transmission of bacteria that cause cavities in the mother (or the primary caregiver) of the baby. These bacteria pass through the saliva. When the mother places the baby’s feeding spoon in her mouth or cleans a pacifier in her mouth, the bacteria can pass to the baby.
If your baby or young child does not receive an adequate amount of fluoride, you may also have an increased risk of tooth decay. The good news is that decomposition is preventable.
- Try not to share saliva with the baby through common use of feeding spoons or licking pacifiers. After each feeding, wipe your child’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth.
- When your child’s teeth come in, brush them gently with a child-size toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste until the age of 3.
- Brush the teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste from the ages of 3 to 6.
- Supervise brushing until your child can be counted on to spit and not swallow toothpaste—usually not before he or she is 6 or 7.
- Place only formula, milk or breast milk in bottles. Avoid filling the bottle with liquids such as sugar water, juice or soft drinks.
- Infants should finish their bedtime and nap time bottles before going to bed.
- If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean—don’t dip it in sugar or honey.
- Encourage your child to drink from a cup by his/her first birthday.
- Encourage healthy eating habits.
When your child’s first tooth appears, schedule the first dental visit. Treat the first dental visit as you would a well-baby checkup with the child’s physician. Remember: starting early is the key to a lifetime of good dental health.