Oral health is one of the most important aspects of your baby’s overall health. If you are a new parent, you may not know that promoting good dental health should start even before your baby’s first teeth have emerged. Baby bottle tooth decay is a concern that every parent should be aware of, but it is not difficult to prevent with the right know-how. Here are four tips for preventing baby bottle tooth decay.
1. Clean Your Baby’s Mouth After Each Feeding
Whether your baby drinks breast milk, formula, or juice, the sugary residue can build upon their gums and tongue. Cleaning your baby’s mouth after each feeding will prevent this residue from promoting bacterial growth. The sugars that remain in your baby’s mouth promote bacterial growth, possibly causing gum disease as well as cavities when their teeth emerge.
To clean your baby’s mouth after feedings, wash your hands and wrap a piece of gauze around your finger. Moisten the gauze with warm water, and gently rub your baby’s tongue, gums, and cheeks with the gauze. Make sure there is no residue in your baby’s mouth after cleaning, and repeat the process if necessary.
2. Avoid Transferring Saliva
Adults’ saliva contains a higher concentration of a bacteria known as mutants streptococci or MS. MS is one of the primary causes of tooth decay. While maintaining good oral health and visiting the dentist regularly will reduce the concentration of MS in your mouth, you should still do everything possible to limit saliva transfer to your baby.
Kissing your baby on the mouth is a common method of bacterial transfer, but MS can also be transferred to your baby indirectly. Using the same cups and utensils or sharing the same drinks can also transfer MS. You should also avoid cleaning infants’ pacifiers with your saliva when they are dropped.
3. Don’t Let Your Baby Sleep With Milk or Sweet Drinks
Many babies build an association between the bottle and sleep if they are left with a drink during bedtime. While this association can be difficult to break, leaving your baby with a sugary drink overnight is one of the biggest risk factors for baby bottle tooth decay. If your baby falls asleep while drinking a bottle of milk or juice, their mouth will be coated in cavity-causing sugars throughout the night.
If you do decide to let your baby sleep with a bottle, they should only be given water. A better method is to gradually wean your baby off of nighttime drinks. Reduce the amount of liquid in the bottle by an ounce each night until you are ready to remove the bottle completely. Your baby will likely be fussy for the first few nights without a bottle, but this is a good time to introduce a stuffed animal or other nighttime-safe toys as a replacement.
4. Visit a Pediatric Dentist Before Age One
Just because your baby’s teeth haven’t grown in yet, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take them to the dentist. Seeing a pediatric dentist before your baby is a year old, or within six months after their first tooth erupts, will give you peace of mind that their primary teeth are healthy and developing. This, in turn, will promote speech development and the correct growth of permanent teeth.
A pediatric dentist can also assess your baby’s risk of gum disease, baby bottle tooth decay, and other oral health issues so that you can begin taking steps to reduce the risk before they start. The earlier you see a pediatric dentist, the more likely your baby will develop good oral hygiene habits that will last for a lifetime.
With these tips, you can prevent baby bottle tooth decay and provide an excellent start for your baby’s dental health. If you have concerns about baby bottle tooth decay or any other aspects of your baby’s oral health, visit Family Dental Center so we can provide top-notch pediatric dental care!