Congratulations! Your baby is about to celebrate its first birthday, and your little bundle of joy is developing right on schedule according to all the best baby books.
Your baby is still on the bottle, but that’s okay; the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests weaning a baby off the bottle by the time they’re 18-months old, so you’ve got some time. And your baby got their first teeth about six months ago with the teeth on either side of the front ones coming in just a couple months ago.
Having primary teeth and being on the bottle are seemingly unrelated, but it’s a combination that, if not properly monitored, can lead to a lifetime of problems.
It’s called by several names—baby bottle tooth decay, bottle rot, or infant caries—but they all describe tooth-destroying cavities in a baby’s primary teeth, most often caused by what’s inside your baby’s bottle.
The Importance of Primary Teeth
Many people believe that, because they’re temporary, primary teeth are not very important. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s what primary teeth do:
- Once children start talking, primary teeth help them to speak more clearly.
- Primary teeth help children chew their food properly.
- It takes healthy primary teeth to chew vegetables, fruits, and grains, which promotes good nutrition.
- Primary teeth save a space for permanent teeth and allow for proper jaw development.
- Children who develop cavities in their primary teeth are at a greater risk of developing decay in permanent teeth.
Those important primary teeth are in jeopardy due to formula, milk, and fruit juice, which are routinely given to babies in baby bottles. While all three of those liquids might be good for babies, they’re not good for teeth because they all contain sugars.
Jeopardizing the Health of Primary Teeth
Many parents unknowingly let their babies fall asleep with a bottle, which allows the sugary contents of the bottle to coat and cling to those new primary teeth. Just as in adults, naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth love sugar. The bacteria produce acids that attack tooth enamel, starting the process of decay.
Any time a baby’s teeth have prolonged contact with sugar, the danger of decay is imminent. The damaging sugar can come from the contents of the baby’s bottle or can occur when parents put honey or other sweet substances on pacifiers. A child falling asleep with a sugar-coated pacifier in their mouth are inviting cavities in their brand-new teeth.
Although all of a baby’s teeth are candidates for cavities, usually, it’s a baby’s front teeth that incur the most damage from the sugars found in formula, milk, fruit juice, and sweet substances rubbed on pacifiers. The front teeth are the most susceptible because bottles and pacifiers spend most of their time in the exact spot where the front teeth are.
Photo courtesy of AskTheDentist.com
Photo courtesy of The Center of Dental Professionals
Photo courtesy of Dentistry for the Entire Family
Keeping Primary Teeth Healthy
As a caring parent, what can you do to prevent your baby from losing baby teeth from decay? Here are a few ideas from WebMD:
- Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding.
- When your child’s teeth come in, brush them gently with a child-size toothbrush and a smear (or grain of rice sized amount) 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.
- If your local water supply does not contain fluoride, ask your dentist or doctor if you need to use a supplement.
- Clean and massage gums in areas without teeth.
- Once all the baby teeth have come in, you may begin flossing.
- Don’t fill bottles with sugar water and soft drinks. Bottles are for milk, water, formula, and special electrolyte-containing solutions when the child has diarrhea. Juices, mixed half and half with water to avoid empty calories, are a way to interest your child in a “sippy cup.” Soft drinks are not recommended for children, as they have no nutritional value.
- Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing anything but water.
- Never give your child a pacifier dipped in anything sweet.
- Reduce the sugar in your child’s diet, especially between meals.
- Schedule regular dental visits by your child’s first birthday. Dentists also offer special sealant coatings, which can help prevent tooth decay in children.
That last bullet point is perhaps the most important. The best way to ensure healthy teeth for your child is to visit your dentist when the first primary teeth begin to appear. Professionals, like Dr. Brei, can keep an eye on your baby’s teeth so you’re certain that primary teeth remain healthy and permanent teeth come in straight and strong.
Contacting the office of Dr. Brei couldn’t be easier. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, call them at 520-325-9000, or click here to book an appointment directly. Ensure your child grows up with a great smile and call Dr. Brei today.