Thoughtful Parenting: Baby bottle tooth decay

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— When you put your child to bed with a bottle of milk, juice or any other drink containing sugar, cavities start to form on your child’s upper, anterior teeth. Cavities often start on the upper teeth, but all teeth will be affected.

Many factors can cause tooth decay such as prolonged exposure to sugary drinks and being put to bed with a bottle or sippy cup when a bottle is used as a pacifier to calm a fussy baby. The bacteria that causes cavities, which is transferred through saliva or spit, can be passed from parent or sibling to the infant. For this reason, pacifiers should be cleaned with running water. Something as simple as letting the baby put their fingers in your mouth and then in their mouth also passes the bacteria. If the main caregiver has cavities or untreated dental disease, the infant has a higher risk of getting a cavity because of the introduction of cavity-causing bacteria. Children also can pass bacteria between each other by chewing on shared toys.

Fluoride plays a big role in preventing cavities. If your infant or toddler does not have the adequate amount of fluoride, this also will increase their risk for tooth decay. Fluoridated water has a significant impact in decreasing cavities. When brushing the teeth of a baby or toddler, use a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste and have your child spit after brushing. In the event your child swallows a small amount of toothpaste, it is not enough to affect their developing adult teeth. The training toothpaste you can buy in the store for babies does not have fluoride in it.

There are some signs you should watch for to indicate there is a cavity starting. If you see a white line starting at the gum line, this is decalcification. Decalcification can turn into a cavity very fast on baby teeth. The white line will start to turn black when it is a cavity that needs to be treated. The molars of toddlers can have deep groves in which plaque can get stuck and create cavities. They will look black or even have a hole that you can see. If a cavity goes untreated, it can abscess, meaning the child might have to have the tooth removed.

When your child’s first tooth erupts, you should contact your dentist about scheduling his or her first dental visit. Prevention is key to good oral health for a lifetime.

Janet Pearcy is the executive director of the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition, which is a partner of First Impressions of Routt County.

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