The first sight of a tooth in babies is quite exciting. Babies explore the world with their milk teeth –they put everything in their mouth and bite everything possible around. Babies shed these milk teeth at a later age. Good oral care is very important so that their adult teeth come in correctly, which is important for a pleasant smile, the ability to chew food well and have clear conversations.
Baby teeth are susceptible to tooth decay and cavities also called Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, or Early Childhood Caries.
Early Childhood Caries mostly happen in the upper front teeth, though other teeth may also be affected. In this, cavity-causing bacteria from the mother or the primary caregiver are passed on to the infant through the saliva, when unknowingly, the baby’s feeding spoon or pacifier comes into contact with the mother’s mouth. The factors that can cause tooth decay are many – from putting babies to sleep with a milk bottle, foods that contain sugar, feeding bottle used as a pacifier or insufficient fluoride supply to the infant.
But not to worry, early childhood caries is totally preventable through the following ways:
- Maintain extra hygiene in wiping or cleaning the infant’s mouth or gums. Always use a clean damp gauze pad or washcloth and never ever share or transfer saliva.
- After teething, introduce dental hygiene as early as possible. Brush teeth gently with age-appropriate and baby-safe toothbrushes and toothpaste at least twice daily. Ensure, the tongue is also kept clean especially if the baby is still being breastfed or bottle-fed.
- Brushing of teeth and cleaning of tongue should happen under strict adult supervision lest the infant/child develops a habit of swallowing toothpaste instead of spitting it out.
- Infants and kids should eat healthy and be encouraged to practise good eating habits.
- Infants and kids should finish their pre-nap feed before going to bed and then brush their teeth.
- Feeding bottles should be for milk only, and not for juices or anything that has sugar in it.
- Never ever use soiled pacifiers or dip them in sugar or honey for the infant.
When the first tooth appears, make sure you visit the doctor for a check-up for the infant. The earlier you start dental hygiene with your infant, the better it is. Good dental health is a life-long asset.