It’s what every parent waits for–that toothless grin from their infant during the first months of life. Sometimes, though, the beautiful smile that this grin will become is robbed by infant tooth decay, when cavities cause dark pits or holes in an infant’s newly developing teeth. Fortunately, baby tooth decay can easily be prevented with parents taking a few precautions.
Sometimes called baby bottle tooth decay, the condition is so called because it is commonly caused by allowing a baby to keep a bottle in his or her mouth after he or she has fallen asleep. The formula or milk pools inside the baby’s mouth against developing teeth, and the sugar in the milk causes cavities and decay. This is especially a risk during nighttime feeding, when a baby may go for a long period of time with milk pooled in his or her mouth.
It is said that babies who are breastfed alone have a lower risk for developing tooth decay than those who take a bottle. This is because milk from a breast most often stops flowing when your baby stops sucking. Therefore, it is less likely to accumulate in your baby’s mouth after he or she has fallen asleep.
There are many easy things that you can be sure to do to reduce the risk of baby tooth decay in your infant. First, always hold your baby during feeding time. Not only is this important for parent-child bonding, it will also allow you to know when your baby is done feeding and is no longer sucking. Try to remove the bottle from the baby’s mouth shortly before he or she falls asleep. This will ensure that all milk is swallowed so as not to remain in your baby’s mouth, reducing the amount of direct contact of sugar with the teeth. Because the amount of this sugar-to-teeth contact time has been directly correlated with tooth decay, it is important not to prop your baby’s bottle.
Be aware of the sugar content of the foods and drinks your baby is consuming. Many times, parents have the misconception that juices are good for their baby. Most often, though, these contain high fructose corn syrup, and this will break down enamel on your baby’s teeth and cause decay.
Brush your baby’s teeth twice a day with a soft brush. If your infant does not yet have teeth, wipe his or her gums with water and a cloth. This will assure that no residue from a bottle remains in the mouth.
In worst-case scenarios, baby tooth decay can lead to oral diseases, affect baby’s nutrition and interfere with speech development. However, good oral practices, early dental intervention, and awareness in parents and caregivers will greatly reduce your baby’s risk and give baby the beautiful smile he or she deserves.