Preventing infant tooth decay
Do you 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 teeth are infected or lost too early due to tooth decay, your child may develop poor eating habits, speech problems, crooked teeth, and damaged adult teeth. In addition, the chances that adult teeth will end up being crooked are greatly increased.
The good news is that a few simple steps can help prevent infant tooth decay. Here’s how:
- Try not to transmit bacteria to your child via saliva exchange. Rinse pacifiers and toys in clean water, and use a clean spoon for each person eating.
- Wipe the baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding.
- Use an appropriate toothbrush along with a toothpaste (approved by the Canadian Dental Association http://www.cda-adc.ca/en/cda/seal_of_recognition/products/) to brush when baby’s first tooth comes in. Continue to clean and massage the gums in areas without teeth. (Fluoride-free toothpaste is recommended for children under the age of two. You can use a pea-sized amount of approved fluoridated toothpaste when the child has mastered the art of “spitting out” excess toothpaste)
- Do not place sugary drinks in baby bottles or sippy cups. Only fill these containers with water, breast milk, or formula. Do not dip pacifiers in sweet liquids (honey, etc.)
- Review your child’s eating habits. Eliminate sugar-filled snacks and encourage a healthy, nutritious diet.
- Do not allow the child to take a liquid-filled bottle to bed. If the child insists, fill the bottle with water as opposed to milk or any other sugary alternative.
- Brush your child’s teeth until he or she reaches the age of seven. Before this time, children are often unable to reach certain places in the mouth.
- Floss your child’s teeth once all the baby teeth have come in
Remember, when breast or bottle feeding:
- Take the bottle/breast away when the child has had enough.
- Do not put a baby or infant to bed with a bottle or allow him/her to suckle on the breast for prolonged periods during sleep.
- Introduce the baby to a feeding cup between 6 and 8 months of age.
Avoid dipping soothers in honey, sugar or other foods or liquids. All sugars (including natural sugars) that are not easily cleared from the mouth, can lead to tooth decay.
If your child needs medicine, ask your doctor or pharmacist to prescribe a sugar-free form.