There is a dental disease called Early Childhood Caries (Cavities) that can affect young children. Sometimes called Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, it is caused when sugary liquid surrounds the teeth too often – like when a child goes to bed with (or walks around with) a bottle.
It can lead to pain and severe cavities in a child’s baby teeth. However, the good news is that Early Childhood Caries (Cavities) are preventable.
What Parents Should Do:
• Breastfeed at regular feeding times. After feeding, mothers should remove the baby from the breast and wipe baby’s gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or brush the teeth.
• If parents bottle feed, they should remove the bottle as soon as they are done feeding the baby. This keeps the child from spending too much time with a bottle. They should then wipe the baby’s gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or brush the teeth.
• Never put baby to bed with a bottle with anything other than water in it, and never let the baby hold or walk around with the bottle for long periods of time.
• Never let the baby drink fruit juice from a bottle. Fruit juice should only be offered in a cup with meals or at snack time.
• Train a child to use a sippee cup by the age of 6 months. However, they still should not let the child walk around and suck on the sippee cup for long periods of time.
• Wean their child from the bottle by age one. Parents should not allow continual bottle use or nursing on demand because frequent exposure to the sugars in drinks, formula, milk and breast milk can lead to cavities.
• Wean their child from sucking on other items, like a thumb or pacifier, by two years of age.
All About Baby Teeth
A child will start getting baby teeth at about 6 months of age. By the age of 2, there will usually be 20 baby (primary) teeth – ten teeth on the top, and ten on the bottom. Parents need to take care of the child’s baby teeth every day. It sets the child on the path of good oral health for a lifetime!
Why Baby Teeth Are Important
Even though baby teeth will be replaced by permanent teeth, they are a very important part of a child’s healthy development. Baby teeth:
• Save space for the permanent teeth. They help make sure that the permanent teeth growing underneath grown in straight.
• Help children form sounds and words. If a child loses baby teeth prematurely to dental disease or trauma, his/her speech could be affected.
• Round out the shape of the face. This helps the child smile and feel good about the way he or she looks, and helps promote positive self-esteem.
Visiting the Dentist
Regular visits to the dentist should start at 6 months of age. The dentist is a child’s lifelong partner in oral health. Parents should not wait until there are problems with tooth color or when the child is in pain – the overall goal is to prevent problems.
At the Dental Visit
The dentist and dental hygienist will check the baby’s gums and teeth and answer any questions. They may:
• Clean and polish the teeth.
• Apply fluoride treatments (put gel or varnish on teeth).
• Take x-rays of teeth or jaw if necessary.
• Floss the teeth once the child’s baby teeth are touching each other.