In infants, tooth decay is commonly referred to as baby bottle tooth decay. This condition occurs when the natural sugars from liquids such as fruit juice or formula latch onto the surface of the child's teeth for an extended period of time. These liquids combine with the bacteria already present inside the child's mouth to create an acid that attacks the structure of the teeth. When left untreated, the child may develop speech problems or crooked teeth because of the damage caused by the infected or lost tooth.
Tooth decay in young children most commonly occurs when they are put to bed with a bottle each night over an extended period, particularly bottles that contain sugary drinks. Over time, prolonged exposure to these types of drinks allows acids to easily attach to the surface of their teeth. Children who are not getting enough fluoride can also suffer from this condition. Additionally, children who have their pacifiers dipped in a sweet substance are at increased risk as well.
Fortunately, this sort of tooth decay is very preventable. Here are a few tips to help you avoid this condition and implement healthy oral hygiene practices for your child.
- Always assist your child in brushing his teeth until you are confident that he is not only brushing properly, but also that he will not swallow the toothpaste.
- Ensure your child's pacifier is clean and avoid dipping it in syrup or sugar.
- Begin brushing with your child at an early age. Children should begin brushing as soon as their first tooth has come in.
- Avoid sending your child to bed with a bottle. Allow him to finish his bottle before brushing his teeth and putting him to bed.
- Consider wiping down your child's teeth and gums with a wet gauze pad after each meal.
In addition to following these tips, it is also important to schedule your child's first dental appointment around his first birthday, after the first tooth has erupted.