Childhood cavities are the most common chronic childhood disease today, but they are almost entirely preventable. And working to prevent those cavities should come while your child is still a baby.
“Creating a good oral care routine should start early, even before you can see any teeth in your baby’s mouth,” says pediatric dentist Dr. Nanna Ariaban.
“If parents work to keep their babies’ mouths healthy, they can set them up for a lifetime of good oral health.” Dr. Nanna offers these tips for bottle feeding parents.
DO: Wipe your child’s mouth after every feeding. This is important to do every time, even in the middle of the night, and for nursing moms as well as bottle feeding parents. About 15 minutes after the feeding, use a clean, damp cloth to wipe the gums. This can remove any sugars left from the formula or breastmilk that could lead to cavities.
DON’T: Put sugary liquids in your child’s bottle. Sugary drinks can lead to cavities, and drinking through a bottle can allow the sugars to bathe the teeth continuously. If you put anything other than milk or formula in the bottle, be sure it is only water.
DO: Give your child a drink before bedtime. This is very helpful for older children as you wean them from a bottle. Allow your child to have a drink before bed, rather than taking a bottle to bed.
DON’T: Send your child to bed with a bottle. While it can be comforting for infants to suck on a bottle at night, the sugars from the milk or formula are left to pool in the child’s mouth and can lead to cavities, even in teeth that haven’t broken through yet.
DO: Wean your child from a bottle by the age of 2. This will prevent damage to the incoming teeth from sucking on the bottle. Introducing cups at an early age can help your child become less dependent on a bottle.
DON’T: Let your child walk around with the bottle. As your child is first beginning to walk, there may be a lot of falls. Have a bottle in the mouth can cause facial injuries, so never let your child toddle around with the bottle in his or her mouth.
DO: Gently brush your child’s teeth as soon as they erupt. Use a child-sized toothbrush and training toothpaste until your dentist recommends fluoride toothpaste.
DON’T: Never clean your child’s bottle or pacifier by placing it in your mouth. If a bottle or pacifier falls on the floor and a wipe isn’t handy, many parents instinctively put it in their mouths to “clean” off the germs it may have picked up. Doing that will actually introduce new bacteria and germs from your mouth into your child’s mouth.
DO: Begin taking your child to the dentist by his or her first birthday (read this post about children’s first dental visit,) or as soon as the first tooth appears. Beginning a relationship with a dentist at a young age will help the child to feel comfortable. Find a pediatric dentist who will be familiar with treating small children and who will have the experience you need.
“Your child’s baby teeth play an important role, so it is important to keep them healthy,” says Dr. Nanna.
“They will fall out eventually on their own, but in the meantime they serve as placeholders for the permanent teeth, and ensure your child can speak and chew properly. If they are lost to decay too early, it can cause issues with the way the permanent teeth erupt.”
If your child has a tooth or has turned one and hasn’t had an appointment with a pediatric dentist yet, schedule a consultation with Dr. Nanna today.
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