Early Childhood Tooth Decay
What Causes Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is most commonly caused by acid-producing bacteria that takes up residence on children’s teeth. This bacteria can be transferred to a child’s mouth via saliva from a variety of sources including but not limited to, a parent/caregiver testing food before feeding it to their child or by cleaning off a pacifier before a child uses it. Sugar is also a culprit of tooth decay. The most common way this happens is when a child is put to bed with a bottle of milk or juice. Children should consume water throughout the majority of the day and only drink milk or juice at mealtimes.
Some Tips To Avoid Early Childhood Tooth Decay
- Put your child to bed with a bottle of plain water, not milk or juice.
- Make sure you are cleaning your baby’s teeth by wiping their gums with a clean baby washcloth; once the first tooth erupts, gently brush with a soft toothbrush and a grain of rice size smear of fluoride toothpaste
- Do not to let your child walk around using a bottle of milk or juice as a pacifier.
- Start to teach your child to drink from a cup at about six months of age. Plan to stop using a bottle by 12 to 14 months at the latest.
- Don’t dip your child’s pacifier in honey or sugar.
- Schedule regular dental visits for your child.
- Tooth Decay is 100% preventable; so, establish good oral health habits early on.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride helps make teeth strong and prevents tooth decay. If the water where you live does not have enough fluoride, your doctor may prescribe fluoride supplements (fluoride drops or pills). You would give these drops or pills every day, starting when your child is about six months old. Only give as much as the directions say to use because too much fluoride can cause spots on your child’s teeth. Also, be sure to call your local water authority and ask if your water is fluoridated. If it is, tell your dentist or pediatrician so that your child is not being over fluoridated. Children should take these drops or pills until they are 12 to 16 years old (or until you move to an area with fluoride in the water).