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Your baby’s incoming teeth may not be permanent, but those baby teeth are just as vital to care for as the permanent ones that will soon-enough take their place. The first set of teeth infants and children obtain are important to protect because if they are lost too early, the teeth that are left may shift and not leave enough room for the adult teeth to come in.
Tooth decay in small children is the most common chronic infectious disease of childhood, and beginning healthy oral habits early on in your child’s life can have a big impact on the state of their lifelong oral health.
Common Causes of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Most commonly occurring in the upper front teeth, baby bottle tooth decay is a condition that occurs when the natural sugars from liquids such as fruit juice or formula latch onto the surface of a child’s teeth for an extended period of time. The most common cause of tooth decay in infants is when a child is put to bed with a bottle each night over an extended period of time.
Prolonged exposure to these types of sweetened drinks allows acids to easily attach to the surface of the child’s teeth, causing them to decay. Tooth decay can also occur when a child frequently drinks anything other than water from a sippy cup or bottle either during the day or at night.
Proper Oral Hygiene Care For Your Baby
As with adults, the best way to prevent tooth decay in your little ones is by properly taking care of their teeth. Your child is susceptible to tooth decay from the moment their first tooth erupts out of their gum tissues, and proper oral hygiene should begin from their first tooth.
- Keep baby’s mouth clean by gently wiping the gums with a clean washcloth before the first tooth.
- Once signs of the first teeth are present, switch to a soft baby toothbrush to gently clean the teeth.
- Use infant toothpaste in addition to brushing with a toothbrush.
- Brush your child’s teeth twice per day, once after breakfast and again before bedtime.
- Supervise all brushing until your child can properly spit out toothpaste – typically around the age of 6.
Steps to Prevent Baby Tooth Decay
- Never put your child to bed with a bottle or food to reduce the risk of exposing the teeth to sugars, as well as avoiding the risk for ear infections and choking.
- Limiting the use of bottles or sippy cups to meal times for any liquids other than water.
- Encouraging your child to drink water as a means of staying hydrated.
- Having a fluoride varnish applied to your child’s teeth to protect them from decay.
- Teach your child to drink from a regular cup by the age of 15 months.
- Limit the amount of sweet or sticky foods your child eats.
- Encourage healthy eating habits.
- Schedule your child’s first dental appointment by their first birthday.
Signs Your Baby Has Tooth Decay
At the earliest signs of a problem, you and your child’s dentist can work together to manage and treat tooth decay for your child. You are your child’s best defense against worsening and untreated tooth decay, so watch for any of these signs including:
- White spots. Their enamel is starting to break down.
- Light brown color. An indication of an early cavity.
- Dark brown or black in color. An indication of a more progressed cavity.
- Pain in or around the tooth.
- Sensitivity. Especially to hot or cold foods or beverages.
- Bad breath.
- Fever, swelling, or irritability. These could be signs of an infection.
Any of these symptoms being shown in your child should be taken seriously. It’s imperative to see a dental professional as soon as possible if you suspect that your child is experiencing signs of tooth decay to avoid extensive restoration treatments and even infant tooth loss.
Have you scheduled your child’s first dental appointment? If the answer is no, schedule their first well-baby checkup with Dr. Baudean today to help keep their teeth and gums healthy.