Once your baby starts to get teeth, usually at around six months old, they are at risk for cavities. The biggest culprit is “baby bottle tooth decay” caused by regular, prolonged exposure to liquids containing sugars, such as milk, formula, fruit juice – and even breast milk.
If your baby falls asleep during feeding, the sugary liquids remain in their mouth, pooling around their teeth. Bacteria in the mouth feeds on the sugars, creating acids that eat away at your baby’s tooth enamel, causing cavities.
If your baby needs a bottle at naptime, fill it with water
If your baby needs a bottle at naptime, make sure that it’s only filled with water, or use a pacifier recommended by your dentist. And after each feeding, wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, damp washcloth or a gauze pad. You can add a soft baby toothbrush to the routine when your baby’s teeth start to come in, using a smear of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice. Gradually increase the toothpaste to a pea-sized amount by the time your child is 3 years old.
You can be the source of your baby’s cavities
When you clean a pacifier by licking it, share spoons with your infant, or share toothbrushes between family members, you introduce bacteria from other people’s mouths into your baby’s – and that bacteria can cause cavities.
Your child’s chances of developing a cavity increases with each risk factor that is introduced: transfer of cavity-causing bacteria, bedtime use of a baby bottle or sippy cup with sugary drinks, and not cleaning your child’s teeth and gums.
Your child should visit the dentist by the time they turn one year old
It’s important to look after your child’s baby teeth, as some of them will be in your child’s mouth until they are 12. The Canadian Dental Association recommends that your child visit the dentist within six months of their first tooth, or by the time they are one year old, to make sure that their teeth and gums are healthy and any small problems are caught early.
If decay goes unchecked and spreads through a tooth, it can cause damage to the underlying adult tooth, or it may need to be pulled. Since baby teeth guide permanent adult teeth into position, a spacer may be needed to hold the space open for the permanent tooth. It’s much easier and less expensive to adopt good oral health habits early on!
We do everything we can to help our young patients feel safe and happy!
At our Richmond dental clinic, our youngest patients can sit on their parent’s lap during an exam. As your child gets older, you are still welcome to accompany them into the treatment room to provide support, ask questions and discuss procedures.