The moment your child’s baby teeth start coming in, tooth decay becomes a risk. Regular dental hygiene, even at this early stage, is crucial in preventing early childhood tooth decay.
When your baby is teething, and you are both dealing with all the stress and discomfort that goes along with it, it’s very easy to lose sight of the fact that tooth decay can also be an element of this process.
Nearly all of the nutrients that your baby consumes during his or her first year contain sugar: from breast milk and formula, to fruit juice and even many of the solid foods you’ll start introducing after the 6-month mark.
The prevalent notion for the last 30 years or so has been that breastfeeding, and in particular, prolonged breastfeeding, is especially bad for babies’ oral health.
Recent scientific studies, however, have shown that breastfeeding is in fact only one component when it comes to whether or not early childhood tooth decay occurs.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Another factor that can contribute to early childhood tooth decay is frequent and prolonged exposure to sugary foods or drinks. In this case, bottles can be particularly problematic, since many babies won’t go to sleep without a bottle. When the bottle is filled with formula or juice that have sugar in them, prolonged exposure can become an issue.
To lower your baby’s chances of tooth decay,
- Fill the bottle with water instead of juice or milk
- Dilute the usual drink with water, if your baby doesn’t like the sudden change
- Substitute the bottle for a clean pacifier or favorite toy
- Comfort your baby, but be firm; change is hard, but she’ll get used to it!
Keep in mind that sippy cups can cause tooth decay in the same way bottles can. While they’re a great way to get your child used to drinking from a cup rather than a bottle, sippy cups should be used moderately, as a transition tool. Try to avoid extended periods of use, and fill the sippy cup with water if your child takes it to bed.
Caring for Your Baby’s Teeth
Before primary teeth emerge:
Cover your index finger with a damp, clean cloth, and use it to carefully wipe your baby’s gums. Be sure to clean the front, back and flat surfaces. It’s a good idea to do this after each meal.
After primary teeth begin erupting:
As soon as your baby has a tooth to brush, you can start brushing it, and once there are two teeth next to each other, you can start flossing between them! Ask your North Delta children's dentist team about brushing and flossing techniques, and toothbrushes for babies.