How to Avoid the Tooth Decay Problem Affecting 1 in 10 Babies

While most babies don't start getting their first set of teeth until they're 4 to 7 months old, it's important to start their dental care routine as early as possible. While tooth decay is a problem usually associated with adults, it's actually a possibility for babies too. Baby bottle tooth decay (which affects around 10% of babies) is caused by drinks leaving bacteria lingering in your baby's mouth for extended periods of time. This bacteria produces acid which attacks young teeth and gums, causing tooth decay over time. You may be wondering why tooth decay is a concern for babies -- after all, those teeth will fall out anyway. Unfortunately, decay and tooth loss can cause further problems down the line, including misaligned adult teeth, speech difficulties, and eating problems. Fortunately, it's not inevitable with the right dental care procedures. Outside of regular cleaning with a damp cloth, here are 4 ways to reduce your baby's chances of tooth decay.

Don't Share Saliva 

If your baby drops their dummy, do you pick it up and suck the bacteria off before handing it to them? Do you taste your baby's food before feeding them to ensure their meal is the right temperature? If so, you could be putting your baby at risk of tooth decay. Babies are born with healthy mouths, but harmful bacteria can be passed on to them by their parents through the sharing of saliva. This bacteria starts the process of decay, so care should to taken to keep your saliva and your baby's saliva separate. Instead of cleaning dummies with your own mouth, rinse them with tap water. Using a separate utensil to test their food is also a good water to prevent saliva transfer.

Limit Harmful Drinks

Any drink containing sugars can cause tooth decay. Baby formula, milk, fruit juices and sugary drinks all contain sugars full of bacteria. The bacteria in these sugary liquids produce acids, which break down teeth and gums. This problem is even more severe when babies are fed sugary drinks at night, as their saliva flow decreases and doesn't wash away the acids as quickly. Limiting the amount of sugary drinks you feed your baby will decrease their chances of tooth decay. Water is always healthy for teeth, so try switching some drinks for water, or diluting sugary juices. Ensure you consult your paediatrician before making any dietary changes to prevent nutritional deficiencies.

Introduce Cups Early

When your baby drinks from their bottle, the liquid inside pools in their mouth. As this pooled liquid remains in your baby's mouth for an extended period of time, the acidic bacteria have more time to attack. The artificial nipple on a bottle does present big benefits for babies. The sucking motion is soothing and helps develop facial muscles. However, it is important to encourage your baby to drink from a cup by their first birthday. Drinking from a cup reduces the amount of time liquids spend in the mouth, swirling around teeth.

See a Dentist

It's possible that your baby may already have tooth decay. White spots on the teeth are an early sign, while brown or black spots and swelling are signs of further developed decay. Early stage baby bottle tooth decay can be reversed with fluoride treatments, but later stage decay may require extensive treatment to prevent tooth loss. If you're concerned that your child may have tooth decay, see your local St Clair dentist for advice. Even if your baby's mouth seems healthy, it's still a good idea to visit a dentist for a check up before their 1st birthday.