What causes dental disease?
Many adults grew up hearing that sugar is bad for teeth, but new
science shows sugar is only part of the problem. Cavities form when
harmful bacteria are allowed to grow inside the mouth. These bacteria
feed on sugar. So the two keys to protecting your child’s smile are:
- Avoid the bacteria that cause cavities
- Avoid the sugar bacteria feed on
How to protect a baby’s smile
- Keep your mouth as healthy as possible. The bacteria that cause
dental disease can be passed from parent to child, so mom, dad and other
caregivers should brush, floss and see their dentist regularly. Studies
show that children of parents with active dental disease are far more
likely to develop dental decay. So, take care of your child’s teeth by
making your own dental health a priority.
- Avoid risky table manners. Just like you can pass a cold or flu
bug to your child, active decay can spread the germs that cause dental
disease. Never share eating utensils with your child or allow your baby
to share foods or drinks after others. And never allow anyone to put
your baby’s pacifier in their mouth.
- Do not feed your baby juices or sodas. The high-sugar content
in these drinks feeds the bacteria that cause dental decay. Milk and
water are the healthiest drink choices for your child.
- Do not allow your baby to sleep with a bottle or at mom’s
breast. Even milk can harm teeth if it is allowed to pool in the mouth
and is not swallowed. “Baby Bottle Tooth Decay,” one of the most common
dental problems in young children, is directly related to infants
falling asleep while drinking from a bottle.
- When your child’s first teeth appear, begin cleaning them with
water and a fingertip toothbrush, gum massager or infant toothbrush.
Talk to your dentist about when to begin adding fluoridated toothpaste
to your child’s brushing routine.
- Wean your child off of the bottle between 12-14 months.
- Schedule your child’s first dental visit by his or her first birthday.
- Tooth decay can begin as soon as teeth appear in your baby’s
mouth. Establish good preventive habits early. Remember, decay in
primary (baby) teeth may damage permanent teeth that are forming inside
the gums. If you suspect dental decay, contact your dentist immediately.