New parents, is your baby’s gummy smile the cutest thing ever? Do your part to keep it healthy by avoiding baby bottle tooth decay.
Tooth decay can happen in very young children when they’re put down for a nap or at bedtime with a bottle of sugary liquid, such as formula, juice or milk. The baby may fall asleep with the bottle in his mouth and the liquid will stick to his teeth for hours at a time. The liquid combines with the bacteria in the baby’s mouth, causing tooth decay.
Dipping a pacifier in sugar or syrup can also increase the bacteria in a baby’s mouth. It’s particularly bad to give babies a bottle with sugary liquids when they’re in bed because saliva production lessens during sleep. Saliva helps wash away bacteria in your mouth.
There’s a myth that baby teeth aren’t that big a deal. They drop out to make way for permanent teeth, right?
In reality, baby teeth are necessary for a very young child to chew, eat and learn to speak. They act as placeholders for adult teeth. Untreated decay can lead to pain and dental problems throughout childhood.
The good news? Baby bottle tooth decay can be prevented. Here’s how:
- Don’t put your baby to sleep with a bottle full of sugary liquids or a pacifier dipped in syrup or sugar. If you baby needs a bottle to get to sleep, fill it with water instead.
- Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean gauze or washcloth after each feeding.
- Use a “smear” of toothpaste on your baby’s teeth up to age 3. From ages 3 to 6, put a “pea” size amount of toothpaste on a child’s toothbrush.
- Help your children brush their teeth to make sure it’s done thoroughly.
Learn more about the myths and facts about tooth decay in young children.