While tooth decay in young children—commonly referred to as “baby bottle decay”—can be harmful to their oral health, it is also quite preventable! To help keep your child in good oral health, read these answers to your common questions about early tooth decay!
1. When should I begin cleaning my child’s teeth?
You may be surprised to learn that you can actually start cleaning your baby’s gums before their first tooth even comes in. After feedings, use a damp clean washcloth to gently wipe off their gums. This will clear away bacteria and residue that can damage their gums. As soon as their first tooth comes in, you can use a small infant toothbrush to clean off their teeth. You should only use a tiny amount of toothpaste—the size of a grain of rice—if any at all during these early stages.
2. What are some common causes of “baby bottle decay” I should look out for?
Just like in adults, too much exposure to sugary foods and beverages can hurt your child’s teeth. Therefore, make sure you’re not putting sugary drinks—including soda or juice—in their bottles. Try to keep only milk, formula, or water in their bottles to avoid any risk of early tooth decay.
You should also note that a common mistake parents make is allowing their own saliva to be on the child’s eating utensils or pacifiers. It is important that you do not share eating utensils when trying their food, for example, as this can allow the harmful bacteria in your mouth to transfer to theirs. These bacteria can corrode the dental enamel and lead to tooth decay.
3. How much toothpaste should my child use to clean their teeth properly?
After your child’s first tooth erupts, you can use a small, child-sized toothbrush and a grain-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste to brush their teeth. When they turn three years old, they begin to learn how to spit out the toothpaste correctly. This is when you can use a pea-sized amount on their toothbrush. You should continue to supervise their brushing until they can consistently spit out toothpaste on their own. This typically occurs by the time they turn six.
4. Can my child sleep with a bottle?
Having your child sleep with a bottle filled with water in their crib is perfectly fine. However, keeping bottles filled with formula, milk, or juice overnight can lead to oral health issues. Slowly sipping on these beverages allows the bacteria in your child’s mouth to feed on the sugar content. The bacteria then release harmful acids onto their teeth. With extended exposure to these acids, your child may be at risk for tooth decay.
5. When should I schedule my baby’s first dentist appointment?
According to the American Dental Association, it is best to schedule your child’s first dentist appointment by their first birthday. This allows you to prevent issues like baby bottle decay and set them on the path toward a lifetime of good oral health!
To schedule your child’s first dentist appointment, call Manus Dental in Yorkville, Hyde Park, or Lake Zurich today!