Children are born with a set of primary teeth – 20 to be exact – that help them learn to chew, learn to speak, and develop enough space in the jaw for the permanent teeth that will appear several years later. Kids’ teeth are especially susceptible to decay, which can cause pain and tooth loss, problems that could interfere with oral development. As a parent, it is important that you take proactive steps to keep your child’s primary teeth as healthy as possible.
The Dangers of Bottles and “Sippie Cups”
Also known as early childhood caries, baby bottle tooth decay refers to tooth decay in infants and toddlers. Your child needs strong, healthy primary teeth to chew food properly and learn to speak, so preventing baby bottle tooth decay is very important.
Early childhood caries can occur in children as young as a year old, when they are allowed to go to bed with bottles and sippie cups of milk or juice. The sugars in these beverages, even natural sugars, can steadily decay the teeth.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests, and we agree, that milk and juice should only be offered to your child at meal times. Limit juice intake to just a few ounces per day. If your child becomes thirsty between meals or likes to go to bed with a bottle, we suggest you serve water during those times.
As a parent, you can establish healthy dental habits long before your child’s first tooth erupts. Start by gently wiping your baby’s gums with a clean wash cloth during the first months of life. By age one, graduate to an appropriately sized toothbrush and use a smear of fluoridated toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice, to brush at least twice a day.
When your child is about three years old, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Watch your child as he or she brushes to make sure none of the toothpaste gets swallowed.
Dental visits should start young and continue on a regular basis throughout your child’s life. The American Dental Association recommends that parents bring their children to the dentist for the first time no later than the child’s first birthday. Initial visits at our office concentrate on an examination of the proper development of your child’s primary dentition and parental education, while future visits may include thorough cleanings and fluoride treatments as your child grows.
For more information about keeping your child’s teeth cavity-free, we invite you to contact our office to schedule a dental consultation and checkup.