Did you know you should start dental care for your child even before he has his first tooth out? Recently two of my friends had their children’s front teeth extracted due to cavities also known as ‘baby bottle mouth’. Tooth decay is a result of prolonged exposure to sugars used by bacteria to produce acid that destroys teeth. If you think baby teeth are not as important as adult teeth, think again. Primary teeth are important for learning to speak, acquiring proper eating habits and, of course, chewing. The good news is that bottle mouth is preventable – just few simple steps will reduce the chances of cavities significantly.
- If your baby has no teeth, wipe his mouth with a damp cloth after feeding. If you breastfeed on demand, you can also consider giving your baby some water after each feeding to flush out sugars.
- Do not let your child fall asleep with a bottle that has anything other than water. When a baby sucks on a bottle at night, liquids often pool in the mouth and provide a rich environment for bacteria. Also, there is less saliva produced at night for a baby to clean his mouth naturally.
- Do not put any other liquid in a bottle other than formula, milk or breast milk. Save juices for a sippy cup and consider diluting them with water. Offering juices as a part of a meal and not snacks is also helpful to keep a baby’s mouth clean.
- Do not dip your baby’s pacifier in sugar or honey. Likewise, do not lick it yourself or lick your baby’s spoon when feeding him. This increases the chances of harmful bacteria from your mouth being transmitted to your baby.
- When your baby’s first tooth is out, start using a toothbrush – you can just use it clean or with a rice sized amount of children’s toothpaste enriched with fluoride. Brush your children’s teeth until they learn to spit and continue to supervise until the age of 6-7.
- After the first tooth comes out but before your baby’s first birthday, schedule an appointment with a dentist to evaluate your baby’s dental health and get personalized recommendations.