As if we don’t have enough on our plates as parents during a pandemic on our hands, it’s important to adapt a good oral routine to help your infants protect their teeth. As adorable as their little teeth are when they start to appear, these little bites can quickly become susceptible to cavities if the proper care isn’t given. Tooth decay in infants and toddlers is often referred to as baby bottle tooth decay, and we’re going to dive into what causes it and how to help prevent it.
First up, what causes baby bottle tooth decay?
Baby bottle tooth decay is decay found in baby and infant teeth (usually occurring in the upper front teeth, but not always). This decay can start happening when children are drinking sweetened liquids or liquids with natural sugars (formula, milk, fruit juices), which clings to their teeth for a long period of time. Bacteria in our mouth loves and thrives off of these sugars, making acids that start to pick away at the teeth.
A common cause we find of baby bottle tooth decay is when we give infants sugary drinks at nap time or when they go to sleep at night. Giving them sugary drinks during these times becomes increasingly harmful as the flow of saliva decreases while sleeping, allowing that bacteria to make a buffet out of their teeth.
Though it’s easy to excuse the importance of healthy baby teeth (I mean hey, they’ll be gone soon anyways, right?), it’s important to understand that infected teeth may create poor eating habits, speech problems, crooked teeth and even damaged adult teeth in our children. Poorly-kept baby teeth can also greatly increase the chances of crooked adult teeth.
Preventing baby bottle tooth decay
Avoid sharing your saliva with your baby (don’t lick their spoons or pacifier).
Wipe the baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding.
Clean and massage the gums in areas without teeth.
Start flossing their teeth once all the baby teeth have come in.
Make sure they’re getting enough fluoride to help fight off cavities. Ask your dentist if you need to use a supplement.
Schedule regular visits to their dentist. Some dentists offer a special sealant coating to help prevent tooth decay in children.
Other techniques to help battle baby bottle tooth decay
Avoid filling bottles with sugar water and soft drinks. Keep the bottles for milk, water, or formula.
Don’t send your child to sleep with a bottle containing anything but water.
Don’t dip your child’s pacifier in anything sweet.
If your infant is already drinking sweet liquids from the bottle, try breaking the habit by gradually diluting the bottle with water over a 2 to 3 week period. Once this period is over, fill the bottle only with water.