Many parents are surprised to learn of their infants’ and toddlers’ tooth decay, especially if their children are still too young to eat solid foods.
There are many causes of decay, and often it is associated with a baby bottle or sippy cup, which is why the condition is often referred to as ‘baby bottle’ tooth decay‘ or ‘early childhood caries’.
The decay generally affects the child’s upper front teeth, although other teeth may also be affected. The most common cause is frequent and repeated exposure of a baby’s teeth to sugary drinks, such as fruit juices, when ingested from a baby bottle.
Even though baby teeth will eventually fall out to make room for a child’s permanent teeth, it is still very important to make every effort to reduce bacteria and decay. Children need healthy and strong baby teeth to properly chew and eat, and to correctly pronounce sounds as they learn to speak.
Preventing Tooth Decay
So what’s a parent to do to protect their young children from tooth decay?
Young children under the age of two should not use toothpaste that contains flouride, however, parents can brush and rinse the child’s teeth to reduce bacteria and prevent decay. Also, parents should avoid filling baby bottles with sugary, fruit juice drinks, and babies should never be put to bed with a bottle.
In addition, to avoid tooth decay among toddlers, it’s best to avoid giving your child sugary, fruit juices and drinks from a sippy cup and use a sippy cup only as a transition from bottle to a regular cup, and not on a prolonged basis.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, parents should follow these guidelines to reduce the risk of tooth decay among toddlers who use sippy cups:
- The sippy cup is a training tool to help children transition from a bottle to a cup. It shouldn’t be used for a long period of time – it’s not a bottle and it’s not a pacifier.
- Unless being used at mealtime, the sippy cup should only be filled with water. Frequent drinking of any other liquid, even if diluted, from a bottle or no-spill training cup should be avoided.
- Sippy cups should not be used at naptime or bedtime unless they only have water in them.
If you have specific questions or concerns about the health and development of your baby or toddler’s teeth, please call our office to speak with one of our pediatric dentists.