Infant and Toddler Oral Care
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby bottle tooth decay is the most common form of cavities under two years of age. It affects approximately 5% of all babies.
Generally, the decay begins on the back of the upper front teeth. This area is often difficult for parents to see. The decay may begin shortly after the teeth come into the mouth and extensive destruction of the teeth can occur within a very short time. Most children who have baby Bottle Decay require caps on their front teeth and molars. If severe enough, extraction may be necessary.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is caused by frequent, prolonged feeding. Many liquids, other than water, may cause this type of decay.
Our goal for your child is to prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay before it can begin.
Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Do not use the bottle as a pacifier.
Do not put your child to bed with a bottle.
Begin cleaning your child's mouth before the first tooth comes in.
Do not put your child to bed with a bottle containing anything other than water once he or she gets a tooth.
Discontinue the bottle by 12-15 months of age unless your pediatrician recommends otherwise.
Thumb/Finger Sucking Habits and Pacifier Use
Sucking is a normal instinct in infants and vital to proper feeding. Many children suck on a finger, thumb, or pacifier and obtain gratification from the habit. Habits that persist beyond four to five years of age many affect the development of a child's bite. The intensity, duration, and frequency of a child's habit, the effect on a child's bite and degree of emotional attachment the child has to the habit are very individualized. An evaluation by your pediatric dentist will determine whether the sucking habit should be addressed.
Many accidents involving injury to the mouth occur between one and three years of age. Any injury that results in bleeding of the gums, loosened or broken teeth, or a tooth that is knocked out should be evaluated by your pediatric dentist.
Fluoride and Drinking Water
Why does your child need fluoride? Because fluoride is a very important element in preventing tooth decay. It acts by making the tooth's enamel stronger and more resistant to bacterial acids which can cause cavities. This occurs by the incorporation of the fluoride into the tooth structure during enamel formation. It is therefore essential that your child's diet contain the proper amount of fluoride during the developmental stage. The most common source of fluoride is in drinking water.
Bottled water and wells contain various concentrations of fluoride. Water conditioners, filters, and softeners may remove fluoride from the water.
We therefore recommend that if you use one of these sources for your drinking water, you should obtain an analysis for fluoride content. This can be done easily and inexpensively with a test kit we will provide to you from the State Health Department.
Cleaning Your Child's Mouth
You should begin to clean your child's mouth before the first tooth erupts. Use a gauze pad or clean washcloth to wipe the gum pads and roof of the mouth. Adequate cleansing of the gums may reduce discomfort associated with teething.
Your child's mouth should be cleaned at least twice a day: after breakfast and before bedtime. A cloth or brush can be used to clean the deep grooves of the chewing surfaces of the teeth. When your child's teeth begin to contact each other, flossing will be necessary to clean between the teeth.
Your young child is completely dependent on you to provide his or her dental care. Children do not develop adequate hand coordination to be completely responsible for their oral hygiene until they are eight or nine years of age.
You should, however, let your child use the toothbrush after you have finished brushing the teeth to encourage participation and to gradually let the child take over responsibility for his or her own oral hygiene.
An ADA-approved toothpaste should be used with children older than 12 months. Assist your child to place a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush. Do not allow your young child to dispense the toothpaste. Any additional toothpaste may be swallowed and could cause discoloration of the adult teeth that are forming.
A routine of professional cleanings and exams with your pediatric dentist should begin around age one and continue at six month intervals.