Think baby teeth are temporary, and therefore, not important? Think again. Baby teeth are necessary for chewing, speaking, and smiling. They also serve as placeholders for the adult teeth. If baby bottle tooth decay is left untreated, pain and infection can result. Severely decayed teeth may need to be removed.
The good news is that a few simple steps can help stave off baby bottle tooth decay. They include implementing good oral hygiene at an early age. Here’s how:
- Wipe the baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding.
- Begin brushing your child’s teeth, without toothpaste, when his or her first tooth comes in. If you choose to use toothpaste, use a fluoride-free one.
- Clean and massage gums in areas without teeth.
- Floss once all the baby teeth have come in.
- Make sure your child is getting enough fluoride, which helps lessen cavities. If your local water supply does not contain fluoride, ask your dentist or doctor if you need to use a supplement.
- Schedule regular dental visits by your child’s first birthday. Dentists also offer special sealant coatings, which can help prevent tooth decay in children.
- Don’t fill bottles with sugar water and soft drinks. Bottles are for milk, water, formula, and special electrolyte-containing solutions when the child has diarrhea.
- Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing anything but water.
- Never give your child a pacifier dipped in anything sweet.
- Reduce the sugar in your child’s diet, especially between meals.
It’s never too late to break bad habits. If your child drinks sweetened liquids from the bottle and/or sleeps with a bottle, break the habit now and cut the risk of baby bottle tooth decay by:
- Gradually dilute the bottle contents with water over 2 to 3 weeks.
- Once that period is over, fill the bottle only with water.
Remember that healthy baby teeth will lead to healthy permanent teeth.