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Stephen Fox D.M.D. | Member American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

Caring for Your Baby's Teeth

For children, the chance for tooth decay or a healthy smile begins with their parents. For very young children, there are three basic ways to beat the risk of tooth decay and gingivitis (bleeding gums).

Mouth cleaning: Start at birth. Simply use a water dampened wash cloth or gauze pad to wipe your baby’s gum pads and tongue several times a day. After the molars appear, a soft, small toothbrush may be substituted. It is important to use a non fluoridated toothpaste until your child can spit out the toothpaste completely.

Control bottle use: Only give your baby a bottle during meals. Do not use the bottle as a pacifier. Never allow your baby or toddler to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juices, or any liquid containing a sugar. If your baby needs a comforter between regular feedings or at bedtime, use only water.Prolonged use of a sippy cup with juice or any liquid other than water should be avoided. When liquid from a bottle builds up in the mouth, the natural or added sugars found in the liquid are changed to acid by bacteria in the mouth. This acid can then start to dissolve the enamel and cause cavities. This prolonged, frequent bottle use is the major cause of cavities in infants. Baby bottle tooth decay can lead to severe damage to your child’s baby teeth and can also cause dental problems that affect his or hers permanent teeth.

Monitor your own dental health: Parents, especially the primary caretaker, must know that if they themselves have tooth decay and bleeding gums, the germs that cause these mouth problems will be passed in their saliva to their children. This happens through normal activities of child care ( such as sharing spoons, having a child put his hands in your mouth, kissing a child’s hands, etc.)

Thus, lack of daily mouth care for your child, overuse of bottles, especially in the crib, and the presence of mouth problems in parents are primary concerns for oral problems in young children. Good mouth care is an investment in your baby’s health and future.

Dr. Fox can be reached at 203-651-0027 or 203-886-0028.