How to Stop Tooth Decay in Your Baby
February – National Children’s Dental Health Month
Baby teeth are vital. If baby teeth are lost too early [due to tooth decay], the teeth that are left may move and not leave any room for adult teeth to come in. “Baby teeth help babies to chew, speak and smile. They also help the adult teeth as they come in.
Parents should start good mouth care for their baby at birth”, says Dr. Lakshmi Dhanvanthari, chief medical officer for Health Plan of San Joaquin.
Tooth decay is the most common disease among children. Tooth decay is what happens when a sticky film of germs builds up on teeth and breaks down sugars in food. The germs produce acids that dissolve the hard surface on teeth. Tooth decay can lead to a hole in the tooth. Also, if tooth decay is not stopped the results can be costly to treat, cause pain and lead to poor health.
The most common way tooth decay happens is when parents put their children to bed with a bottle of milk, juice (even when mixed with water), soft drinks or sugared drinks. Tooth decay can also happen when children are allowed to have drinks, other than water, from a sippy cup or bottle during the day or night. Milk should be served only with meals and not offered throughout the day, at nap time or at bedtime. Here are a few more tips for a healthy start to good mouth care:
- From birth to 12 months, parents should keep their baby’s mouth clean by gently wiping the gums with a clean baby washcloth. Once the baby’s first tooth comes in, parents should gently brush using a soft baby toothbrush and a smear (size of a grain of rice) of fluoride toothpaste.
- All nursing mothers should know about and follow good mouth care, proactive teeth care and eat healthy foods.
- Germs are passed to babies through spit. Parents and caregivers should not share spoons or cups, test foods before feeding them to babies or clean off a pacifier in their mouth.
- Parents and caregivers should not let a child use a bottle or sippy cup as a pacifier or let a child walk around with or drink from one for a long span of time. If a child wants to have a bottle or sippy cup in between meals, it should only have water.
- Parents should limit the amount of sweet or sticky foods children eat like, candy, gummies, cookies, Fruit Roll-ups, cookies, chips and crackers. Children should be taught to clean their teeth and gums two times a day for two minutes.
Healthy mouth care habits should start early because tooth decay can start as soon as the first tooth comes in. Children should see a dentist after their first birthday. Until the first birthday, parents should have their baby’s Health Plan of San Joaquin doctor look inside of their child’s mouth.
The baby’s doctor can put on a fluoride varnish and talk with parents about how to keep up good mouth care habits. For more tips about keeping teeth strong and healthy, please visit: https://hpsj4.wpengine.com/healthysmiles/. Parents should talk with their child’s Health Plan of San Joaquin doctor if there are any signs of rotting teeth in the child’s mouth or if there are other questions about their child’s teeth.
Tooth decay can be stopped. With the right care, children can grow up to have healthy teeth for a lifetime of smiles!