Also referred to as “baby bottle tooth decay” cavities can develop in infants and toddlers. This is a serious problem that should be avoided. Baby teeth are important. If they are damaged or lost too early, it can lead to serious oral health issues, such as infection, pain, or problems with the eventual eruption of the permanent teeth. Premature tooth loss can also have a negative impact on your baby’s nutrition.

It is important to instill healthy habits at a young age. Here, we will explore the causes, signs, and symptoms of tooth decay in infants and toddlers and discuss how to reduce the risk of this problem.

What Causes Tooth Decay in Infants?

Tooth decay is caused by oral bacteria that feed off of plaque. These bacteria produce acid, which eats away at the healthy tooth structure.

When the baby’s teeth and gums are exposed to sugary food and drinks (yes, even milk), the sugars in these beverages are transformed into acid by the bacteria found in the mouth.

The risk of tooth decay is increased significantly when babies or toddlers are sent to bed with a sippy cup full of milk, formula, juice, or any beverage other than water. Children who frequently drink these beverages throughout the day are also at a higher risk for cavities.

Signs and Symptoms

When cavities first appear, they may look like white spots near the gum line. They can be very difficult to see with the naked eye. For this reason, parents should take their child to the dentist whenever the first tooth erupts. Your dentist can detect any issues early on, when they are easier to address.

Preventing Infant Tooth Decay

There are plenty of things you can do to reduce the risk of cavities in babies and toddlers. Here are some recommendations:

  • For infants up to 12 months old, be sure to keep the gums clean by wiping them down with a clean washcloth. Once the first tooth appears, brush it with a soft-bristled baby toothbrush and a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • For toddlers, brush the teeth two times every day for at least two minutes. We encourage you to do this after breakfast and before bedtime.
  • Don’t use a sippy cup as a substitute for a pacifier. If your child walks around with a sippy cup during the day, be sure it’s only filled with water.
  • Never send your child to bed with a bottle, sippy cup, or snack.
  • Make sure that your child drinks fluoridated water. If your water is not fluoridated, ask your dentist about topical fluoride treatments that can remineralize tooth enamel and protect against cavities.
  • Limit sweet or sticky foods like caramels and taffy. Also reduce consumption of potato chips and other similar snacks.
  • If your child snack between meals, make sure he or she eats only healthy foods.
  • Teach your child to drink from a regular cup by the time they are 12 to 15 months old.
  • Consider reducing or eliminating juice from your child’s diet. If you serve juice, do it only at mealtimes.
  • Bring your child in for regular dental visits and ask your dentist about fluoride and other preventative measures.

By following these simple guidelines, you’ll set your child up for success. While it is impossible to prevent tooth decay altogether, taking proper precautions can significantly reduce the risk for these problems.

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Similar Questions

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