At our central Oklahoma City dentist office for kids, our team at Shepherd Mall Family Dentistry understands that new parents can have a lot of questions about the best practices for protecting their child’s oral health. There are a number of problems that can negatively impact a child’s oral health from a young age that include tongue thrusting, thumb sucking, lip sucking, and even premature tooth loss. While baby teeth are meant to fall out and be replace by permanent teeth, keeping your child’s baby teeth healthy ranks as an important part of his or her oral and overall health development.
Tooth decay is one of the biggest risks a child’s oral health can face at a young age. If parents don’t know the risk their child’s oral health faces as the result of a normal feeding pattern, it can be easy to ignore the type of preventative care needed to help protect a child’s oral health now and into the future. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about preventing the most common cause of childhood tooth decay.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby bottle tooth decay – also commonly referred to as nursing bottle syndrome, nursing carries, and early childhood carries – occurs when a child’s teeth are in repeated contact with sugars from drinks, such as sugar water, diluted fruit juice, formula, milk, or any other type of sweetened beverage. If breastfed infants fall asleep with unswallowed milk in the mouth, they also have an increased risk of developing tooth decay. Tooth decay is caused by harmful oral bacteria that thrives on the sugars we consume.
When left untreated, decayed teeth can cause discomfort and make it difficult for your baby to eat and chew. Additionally, baby teeth act as “space holders” for the development of adult teeth. If baby teeth become damaged or fall out at an early age, they can no longer help guide permanent teeth into the correct position, potentially resulting in the development of a crooked or crowded smile. Badly decayed baby teeth could lead to the development of a dental abscess, with the potential for the infection to spread to another part of the body. If a dental infection spreads to the brain, it could be life threatening to your child.
How to Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Here are a few tips on how to lower your child’s risk of tooth decay:
- To comfort or calm your baby during the day, don’t give him a bottle filled with milk or a sugary liquid, give him plain water or a pacifier instead.
- Never dip a baby’s pacifier in honey, sugar, or any sweetened liquid.
- Don’t put your baby down with a bottle filled with a sugary liquid. Only put your baby down using a pacifier or a bottle containing a small amount of water. Too much water can actually be harmful to your baby’s health.
- Never add sugar to your baby’s food.
- Following each feeding, gently wipe your child’s gums and teeth using a wet cloth or gauze. This helps to remove any sugars or bacteria that lingers in the mouth.
- Teach your baby how to drink from a cup by her first birthday. Switching from a nipple to a “sippy cup” lowers the amount of sugar exposure your child’s teeth will receive. However, the constant sipping from the cup will still contribute to your child developing tooth decay unless only filled with water.
By following these simple steps, you can successfully lower your child’s risk of tooth decay. If you have any questions regarding the best practices for protecting your child’s teeth, be sure to ask any member of our staff during your next visit to our central Oklahoma City dentist office.