Having a baby is the most transformational, exciting journey most people will experience in their lives. With all of the joy, laughter, and love that a baby brings, there is an equal share of learning, growing, and changing. While all new parents will do their best to equip themselves with the knowledge and tools necessary to best care for their baby, for many people, their knowledge of how to parent comes from in-the-moment experiences. One thing many new parents may not be thinking about right off the bat are their babies’ teeth and oral health, as teeth don’t appear until the child is a few months old. It’s never too early to be thinking about oral healthcare, however, and we’re here to warn you about a potentially unknown harm to your baby’s mouth: baby bottle tooth decay.
What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Once your child’s first tooth erupts, it’s possible for cavities to start forming if we aren’t careful. While you may not think of milk as a potentially harmful food, the reality is that the high amounts of sugar found in breast milk, formula, and juice can cause a baby’s teeth to rot if we aren’t careful! In the same way that not brushing after dessert will harm adult teeth, baby bottle tooth decay happens when sugar filled drinks are allowed to stay in a baby’s mouth for extended periods of time, eventually leading to cavities.
How Can I Avoid It?
The most dangerous time to have sugar lingering in anyone’s mouth, regardless of age, is overnight. Because of this, avoid giving your baby a bottle to sleep with and be sure to brush their teeth before bedtime. As your child gets older, make sure that water is their only post-brushing bedtime drink. Additionally, never give your baby a pacifier that has been dipped in honey or sugar, as this can also linger in their mouths and eventually cause decay.
What is the Best Way to Care for an Infant’s Mouth?
To avoid complications from sugar and other food, it is best to give your child's gums and teeth a gentle cleansing after each feeding. You can use a baby tooth and gum cleanser and a baby toothbrush, or simply use a clean, wet washcloth or gauze pad to massage their teeth and gums. It is important to start this practice early on so that you can maintain your child’s oral health from even before their first tooth erupts!
Being a new parent is an exciting, scary, transformational time in anyone’s life, and it’s normal to have dozens of questions and few answers. Never hesitate to reach out to your dentist, pediatrician, or any other resources for help when you need it! Your dentist will be happy to discuss infant oral care with you and will want to examine your baby’s mouth soon after their first tooth erupts.
To ask any questions you may have, or to schedule an appointment for your child's oral needs, give us a call at Valley Dental Care today!