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What Causes Tooth Decay in Toddlers?

Anne Maria Wynter

Whether you're 5 years old or 65 years old, tooth decay is a problem nobody wants to deal with. So it can be especially alarming for parents to learn that their toddler's first teeth are already showing some signs of decay.

The good news is that this problem can be prevented if you understand the common causes of tooth decay and take good care avoid them. Keep reading to find out exactly what leads to tooth decay in toddlers and what steps you can take to keep your tot's smile healthy and bright.

Lack of Regular Cleaning

One way you can prevent decay is by adopting a regular cleaning routine early on. Before your child's first teeth grow in, you should gently clean his gums with a washcloth or with a moist piece of gauze. When his baby teeth first appear - usually when he's around 6 months old - it's time to begin gently brushing the teeth with a small toothbrush and water. After your tot turns 2, you can brush his teeth twice a day with a little fluoride toothpaste.

Exposure to Drinks with Sugar

Even though bottles and sippy cups are convenient and good at preventing spills, they sometimes contribute to tooth decay in toddlers. The problem is that many parents fill these bottles and cups with sugary drinks like juice or soda. Cut back on the risk of tooth decay by only filling your toddler's bottles and sippy cups with water, breast milk or formula.

Some parents let tots carry something to drink so that they have constant access to the drinks. While this may seem like a great way to calm a fussy toddler, it can actually expose your child's teeth to damaging substances over an extended period.

You should also avoid giving your toddler a bottle or sippy cup when you tuck him in for nap time or bedtime. Because the mouth tends to dry out during sleep, anything your child drinks before bed is more likely to stick to his teeth, increasing the chance that tooth decay will occur.

The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that sippy cups should only be temporary tools for children, so you should aim to teach your toddler to drink from a big kid's cup by his first birthday.

Sharing of Saliva

You may not realize that decay-causing bacteria can actually be transmitted through the saliva. If you have these bacteria, you can pass them to your baby by sharing utensils or drinking from the same cup. You can prevent the spread of harmful bacteria by never passing utensils and cups between you and your toddler without washing those items first.

To keep your tot's teeth free of cavities, steer clear of these common habits. A healthy set of teeth will give your child - and you - even more reasons to smile.

Learn more about toddler tooth decay in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

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