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Tooth Decay & Week in Review

Dear Debi,
Can babies really get tooth decay?
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • After feedings, wipe baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad
  • Never allow child to fall asleep with a bottle of milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquids
  • Make sure your child drinks water with fluoride
  • Take your child to the dentist by age one
Don’t forget about the great things that we learned this week:
Expert Advice
Dr. Valery Sweeny
Dr. Valery Sweeny
Tooth decay occurs when sweetened liquids or foods are given and left clinging to a child's teeth for long periods. Many sweet liquids and foods cause problems, including milk, formula and fruit juice. Bacteria in the mouth uses these sugars as food. They then produce acids that attack the teeth. Each time your child drinks these liquids, acids attack for 20 minutes or longer. After many attacks, the teeth may decay. It's not just what you put in your child's bottle that causes decay, but how often and for how long a time. Giving your child a bottle of sweetened liquid many times a day isn't a good idea. Allowing your child to fall asleep with a bottle during naps or at night can also harm the child's teeth.

Baby teeth are important because children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food, to speak and to have a good looking smile. Baby teeth also keep a space in the jaw for the adult teeth. If a baby tooth is lost too early, the teeth beside it may drift into the empty space. When it's time for the adult teeth to come in, there may not be enough room. This can make the teeth crooked or crowded.

There are a few things you can do to help prevent tooth decay in young children. After each feeding, wipe your baby's gums with a clean gauze pad. Begin brushing your child's teeth when the first tooth erupts. Clean and massage gums in areas that remain toothless, and begin flossing when all the baby teeth have erupted, which is usually by age 2 or 2 and a half. Never allow the child to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquids. Never give your child a pacifier dipped in any sweet liquid. Avoid having your child eat or drink sweet foods or liquids for prolonged periods of time. Make sure your child drinks water containing fluoride. Finally, take your child to the dentist by their first birthday.

A child’s diet has a direct impact on dental health. Milk, formula, fruit juice or anything in the child's diet which contains sugar will contribute to tooth decay. Sugar acts as food for the bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria produce acids, which attack the tooth surface and cause decay.

Fluoride is important for kids as it acts as a decay preventing agent. Keep in mind, however, that too much fluoride can result in an array of problems, starting with the most mild form of fluorosis in which the teeth have a white opaque appearance, to more severe brown discolorations known as "mottled” enamel.

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