As an experienced provider of kids’ dental care in SW Portland, our team at Burlingame Dental Arts knows firsthand just how important a child’s early oral health is to his or her long-term development.
Most kids don’t begin to develop their permanent teeth until the age of six or older. But just because their baby teeth may be only “temporary,” the actually play an enormously important role. Baby teeth act as space holders that work to guide permanent teeth into their correct position as they begin to form. When kids lose their baby teeth at too young an age, their permanent teeth can develop crooked, crowded, and misaligned.
In addition to impact the appearance of a child’s smile, these type of oral health problems can also cause a child to develop speech, eating, and drinking impediments. To ensure kids enjoys a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums, their baby teeth most be properly cared for.
Unfortunately, tooth decay in baby teeth is a common problem for young children. It is such a pervasive dental occurrence that it has its own name, Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, and it’s certainly an issue that’s common in kids’ dental care in SW Portland.
So what is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay and how can you protect your child’s teeth from decay? Let’s take a look.
What causes this type of tooth decay?
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is so-called because it frequently affects a baby’s or toddler’s upper incisors, the teeth most closely associated with bottle use– and this is not a coincidence. Late night bottle feedings or letting a child go to sleep while sipping from their baby bottle is a major cause of this type of tooth decay in young children. Milk is extremely high in sugar, particularly breast milk– the prolonged exposure to sugars places new teeth at risk for decay.
Other factors in Baby Bottle Tooth Decay include:
Not brushing teeth.
While it may seem surprising, many parents are not aware that their children’s teeth need to be brushed twice daily, just like adult teeth. Children may not have very many teeth, but even one is enough. In fact, oral hygiene should begin at birth by gently cleaning gums with a soft washcloth.
It’s the easiest thing in the world to share utensils with a baby– many of us “show” our children how delicious their food is by taking a bite ourselves (complete with exaggerated smile!) but if you do this, you will want to use your own spoon. Despite parents’ best intentions, cavity-causing oral bacteria from our mouths can be shared with our babies along with that spoon, straw, or bite of toast.
Nursing at night.
Well yes– nightly nursing is a reality for most parents, particularly mothers, and in general there is nothing to be concerned about. The type of night nursing pediatricians worry about is the “all-night sipping” that happens if a baby is sharing a bed with a parent. If the baby is co-sleeping with his or her parents, health professionals recommend preventing the baby from nursing except at discrete intervals.
We saved the worst for last because sugary drinks are terrible for children! Of course, our patients— and their parents– know that high sugar beverages like soda and sports drinks should never be part of a children’s meal. These sneaky treats taste may taste good, but their high sugar and acid content double up to eat away at dental enamel.
Avoiding Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
There are many things parents can do to protect their children’s teeth:
- By the child’s first birthday, encourage drinking from a cup instead of a bottle.
- Never share utensils with your child.
- Brush your child’s teeth with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste twice daily, and definitely right before bed.
- Do not allow the child to nurse to sleep; brush her teeth after nursing and find other soothing ways to end the day.
- Limit juice– even regular favorites, like orange juice, are very high in sugar and acid. Offer whole fruit instead for a good source of vitamin C!
Healthy baby teeth are the best start to lifelong oral health and a vital part of kids’ dental care in SW Portland. Talk with our doctors about ways you can support your child’s health at your next visit to your SW Portland dentist at Burlingame Dental Arts!