While most babies rarely see their first tooth erupt before they are 6 months old, proper infant dental care should still be practiced right from the start.
One thing that’s highly recommended by dentists is for parents to take their child to the dentist before their child’s first birthday. Apart from checking if the child’s teeth and gums are well taken care of, the dentist will also take this time to orient the parents on how to practice proper infant dental care at home.
Tooth decay, for one, is very common among toddlers whose teeth and gums aren’t properly cared for.
Commonly referred to as either baby bottle tooth decay or early childhood caries, the alarmingly growing number of children suffering from this dental disease is enough of a reason to raise awareness among parents and their toddler’s dental health.
Causes of Tooth Decay in Children
Tooth decay develops because of the interaction between cavity causing and non-cavity causing bacteria, carbohydrates and the components naturally found in our saliva. This interaction of all four factors collectively affects tooth enamel surfaces, sometimes destroying it.
One of the most common reasons why tooth decay occurs in children is when the bacteria from the mother’s mouth or that of the primary caregiver comes in contact with a spoon or pacifier that’s then given to the infant.
There are also cases where baby bottle tooth decay is a result of poor feeding habits. Babies who are put to bed with a bottle or if their teeth are regularly exposed to sugary drinks such as fruit juice, milk or formula for long periods of time are all at risk.
Tooth decay may also affect teeth as soon as they erupt, especially the upper front teeth.
There are a lot of possible reasons and factors that may contribute to how much of a risk an infant is at for tooth decay, namely:
- Frequent bottle feeding at night
- Frequent consumption of sugar-filled snacks and drinks
- Frequent and early exposure of bacteria in the baby teeth
- A possible breakdown of the enamel, the protective layer of the teeth
- Lack of fluoride
- Lack of oral care
The Importance of Baby Teeth
While baby teeth will eventually be replaced by a permanent set of teeth, it’s still important to take proper care of them as they allow children to chew, speak and it also holds the spaces for the permanent teeth in the jaws.
If not cared for, tooth decay in baby teeth can have both short-term and long-term effects on the erupting permanent teeth.
Prevention and Treatment
- Never let babies and toddlers fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, fruit juice, or any other sweetened liquid. The same goes for pacifier dipped in sweeteners.
- Avoid licking pacifiers and feeding spoons or doing anything that may share your saliva with the baby.
- Use a Xylitol wipe, washcloth or a clean gauze pad to clean your baby’s teeth and gums.
- Use a child-sized toothbrush with water to brush your baby’s teeth when they first erupt. Be sure to consult the dentist first if you plan on using a fluoride toothpaste before the age of two.
- Watch over your children when brushing and make sure that they spit and not swallow. Most children will eventually learn to spit on their own by the age six or seven.
- Encouraging babies to drink from a cup before their first birthday can also prevent tooth decay.
- Promote a healthy diet and proper drinking habits to your child early on so they can carry these habits well into their adulthood.
Visiting the Dentist
As a general rule of thumb, your child should be taken for a dental visit on his or her first birthday or when the first tooth appears, whichever comes first.
The initial visit is important as this is where the dentist will demonstrate to you, the parents, the proper technique for taking care of your baby’s teeth. Also, regularly taking your child to the dentist at an early age will make him or her less likely to develop dental anxiety or phobia later on.
Make an appointment to prevent tooth decay today by contacting Dental Associates of Hoboken at 201-795-2111. To learn more about tooth decay and what steps you can take to prevent it visit www.dentalassociatesofhoboken.com.