Is Your Breast Fed Baby at Risk for Early Childhood Caries?
Our recent post discussed Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (Early Childhood Caries) and how and why it occurs. It is important for Moms who breast feed their baby to know that just because a baby is breast fed, does not mean they are immune to early childhood caries.
Tooth decay can arise when a young child nurses from the breast, because breast milk also has sugar in it. However, breastfeeding is associated with a low risk of developing tooth decay, compared with bottle feeding. Nevertheless, breast milk does contain sugars and some infants who breast feed for long periods throughout the day or night may develop tooth decay.
For Breast-fed Babies
- Avoid : feedings that last more than 30 minutes.
- Avoid : prolonged and unrestricted night time feeding.
- Avoid : frequent, on-demand (“at-will”) feedings once the first teeth erupt.
- Avoid: nursing your child to sleep. If your baby is breastfed, and won’t fall asleep without being nursed, try to avoid letting him/her sleep with the nipple in his/her mouth. After he/she falls asleep, remove the nipple to prevent pooling of liquid.
- After each feed, wipe your child’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth. You should start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first teeth come in. Gently brush with a child-sized toothbrush and water.
“Lift the Lip” to check for signs of Early Childhood Caries Once the primary teeth have erupted, parents can lift the baby’s upper lip and visually check both front and back of the four upper front teeth at least once a month.
Checking a child’s teeth takes only a minute. It is helpful to have one adult hold the baby while a second adult looks at the teeth. A small dental mirror can help in viewing the back surfaces of the teeth. White spots on the surface of the upper front teeth or whitish lines at the base of the teeth along the gum line are indicators of Early Childhood Caries. If a parent notices any white spots on the teeth, a dentist visit is warranted. At this stage, Early Childhood Caries may still be reversible with prompt treatment. If left unchecked, the “white spot” lesions can rapidly develop to brown spots and general decay of the teeth.
For more information about how to prevent early childhood caries see our blog “How to Prevent Early Childhood Caries”