Why Baby Teeth Are Important
You may wonder what the big deal is about cavities in baby teeth; after all, these teeth will fall out anyways. Baby teeth are actually crucial for oral health. They not only help a child chew and speak, but they hold the places for permanent teeth. If a baby tooth requires extraction, it no longer holds a spot for the permanent tooth. This can result in crooked or crowded teeth.
What Causes Early Childhood Caries
There can be several factors that cause early childhood caries (a.k.a. baby bottle tooth decay) in children. Some of the major ones include:
- Prolonged exposure to sugar: If a child is put to bed with a baby bottle, or the bottle is used as a pacifier, then your child is at risk for developing cavities. This is especially the case if sugary drinks are put in the bottle.
- Low fluoride intake: Some parents may worry that too much fluoride could cause fluorosis (a harmless cosmetic condition) to develop on their child’s teeth and may avoiding using a fluoride toothpaste or giving their child fluoridated water entirely. However, if a child does not gain enough fluoride for tooth development and strengthening, then they may grow weak teeth that are more vulnerable to decay.
- Spread of bacteria: Adults sometimes clean their child’s pacifier with their mouth or share a spoon with them. However, this seemingly harmless action spreads oral bacteria to the child’s mouth, increasing their risk of tooth decay.
How To Prevent Early Childhood Caries
There are many factors contributing to tooth decay in children, but there are also many ways to prevent it.
- Do not fill a child’s bottle with sugary drinks or dip their pacifier in sugar or honey.
- The baby bottle should be used as a feeder, not as a pacifier.
- Do not put a child to bed with a bottle.
- Clean your child’s teeth with a fluoride toothpaste (rice-sized amount when they are 0-2, pea sized amount when they are 3-6).
- Do not clean your child’s pacifier with your mouth or share a spoon.
- Encourage your child to drink from a cup by their first birthday.
- Take your child to the dentist for regular check-ups.