As soon as your child’s primary teeth start coming in, tooth decay becomes a potential risk. Even at this early stage, regular dental hygiene is crucial in preventing early childhood tooth decay.
When you and your baby are both dealing with all the stress and discomfort that goes along with teething, tooth decay might not be at the forefront of your mind.
It's definitely something that should be considered, though. At this stage, many of the nutrients that your baby consumes contain sugar: from formula and breast milk, to fruit juice and even some of the solid foods you’ll start introducing after the 6-month mark.
For the last 30 years, the prevalent notion has been that breastfeeding, and prolonged breastfeeding in particular, is especially bad for babies’ oral health.
Recent scientific studies, however, have suggested that breastfeeding is in fact only one element that can contribute to early childhood tooth decay.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Frequent and prolonged exposure to sugary food and drinks is another factor that can contribute to early childhood tooth decay. Bottles can be particularly problematic when it comes to this issue, since babies often won’t go to sleep without a bottle. If the bottle is filled with formula or juice, prolonged exposure can become problematic.
To lower your baby’s chances of tooth decay,
- Instead of juice or milk, fill the bottle with water
- Dilute the juice or milk with water, to get your baby used to the change gradually
- Substitute the bottle for a favorite toy or a clean pacifier
- Be comforting but firm; change is never easy, but your baby will get used to it!
Sippy cups can also cause tooth decay, just like bottles can. They’re a great tool for getting your child accustomed to drinking from a cup rather than a bottle, but sippy cups should be used moderately, as a transition tool only. It's best to avoid extended periods of use. Be sure to 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 clean, damp, cloth, and use it to carefully clean your baby’s gums after each meal. Be sure to clean the front, back and flat surfaces.
After primary teeth begin erupting:
As soon as your baby has a tooth, you can start cleaning it, and once two teeth come in next to each other, you can start flossing! Ask your Langley children's dentist about correct brushing and flossing techniques, and the best toothbrushes for babies.