As soon as babies start cutting teeth, they are at risk for tooth decay. And there are a number of sources (some surprising) that can contribute to the problem.
Infant tooth decay can begin when the cavity-causing bacteria are passed from the mother or other caregiver to the infant. Bacteria are passed through saliva when the mother puts a feeding spoon in her mouth or cleans a pacifier with her mouth.
Infants can also be exposed to heightened risks of tooth decay through prolonged exposure to sugars or starches through their bottles or pacifiers. Tooth decay can occur when a baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier. This is especially true if sweet liquids like sugar water or juice are in the bottle.
And coating a pacifier in sugar or honey, while soothing a baby temporarily, can also expose the infant’s teeth to additional risk.
Early childhood tooth decay can cause pain, can impair speech, and can cause permanent teeth to come in crooked. Fortunately, simple steps can be used to prevent many problems.
The child has less risk of bacteria exposure if caregivers are practicing good dental hygiene. Gently swabbing the baby’s gums with a damp washcloth after a meal can also remove bacteria and bits of food that can cause decay. Avoid putting liquids other than milk or formula into bottles, and look for other ways to sooth children rather than using sweets on a pacifier. Check with your pediatrician or dentist to make sure the child has the proper exposure to fluoride to help prevent decay.
If you have other questions about infant tooth care, we welcome you to use our website’s “Ask The Expert” feature.