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Quick reference medical handouts used by Pediatric offices


Tooth Decay Up in Small Children


see also: Bottle Tooth Decay is early threat to Baby's Teeth

Make sure your baby's developing teeth are not at risk from nursing or bottle tooth decay

Decay in children’s baby teeth is on the rise. The number of 2- to 5-year-olds with such decay increased from 24 to 28 percent from 1988 to 2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Parents need more education on prevention of tooth decay in their young children, such as not putting the child to bed while nursing or taking a bottle or sippy cup, and limiting sweets and juices only to mealtime,” said Carolyn Wilson, D.D.S., chief of Dental Services at Children’s.

Steps you can take
There are plenty of steps parents can take to ensure their children develop healthy teeth. First, before your baby goes to sleep at the end of the day, make sure his developing teeth are not at risk from nursing or bottle tooth decay.

This happens when juice or milk stays in the mouth while a baby sleeps, especially when sucking on a bottle all night. The sugars in the mouth are metabolized by bacteria, which produce acid that eats away the tooth enamel, causing cavities. Cavities must be repaired before they extend into the pulp of the tooth, requiring either a root canal or the tooth to be pulled. 

When your baby is awake, saliva bathes the teeth, removing much of the sugar from foods and keeping the bacteria in check. But while your baby sleeps, saliva production lessens, and the decay rate increases. 

Even before the first teeth appear, wipe milk or juice off your baby’s gums after every feeding. When teeth do appear, brush them with a soft toothbrush after the last feeding before bed and again in the morning.

Experts recommend that by the time babies are a year old, they should drink from a cup. If the bottle helps a baby settle down, fill it with plain water. Never put a baby to bed with a bottle of milk, juice or other sugary drink.

The American Dental Association makes these recommendations:

  • Begin to clean your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth. Use a soft washcloth or damp gauze and gently wipe along the gum.
  • When teeth begin to appear, the cloth can still be useful, or use a soft-bristled toothbrush without toothpaste.
  • Talk to your pediatrician about dental care for your baby, and take your child in for the first dental visit when his first tooth comes in, usually by the age of 1. Practitioners can start your child on a lasting program of dental care
posted 11/04/2008

 

As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your child’s pediatrician. Please read our full disclaimer.

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