Many children develop routine nighttime nursing or bottle-feeding habits. While a child may fall asleep more easily with the comfort of a bottle, this type of behavior could be damaging to his or her oral health. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), nursing or giving a bottle to a child on-demand and without restriction can lead to a higher risk of childhood tooth decay once a baby’s first tooth appears.
Here at Jamboree Dentistry, we have seen first-hand the effects of baby bottle decay on young children. That is why we recommend that parents be proactive in the steps they take to prevent early childhood cavities.
Nighttime Nursing and Bottle Habits
To start, avoid letting your child drink any liquid other than water from a bottle or sippy cup at night while falling asleep. Prolonged exposure to the sugary compounds in milk can cause tooth decay over time. Instead, nurse or provide your child with a bottle of milk prior to bedtime. Keep sugary liquids like juice to a minimum, and only give them in small, restricted quantities.
If necessary, a pacifier should be used in place of a bottle for nighttime or naptime comfort. Ensure that the pacifier is clean and germ-free. Do not ‘rinse’ the pacifier with saliva from your own mouth, as this introduces harmful bacteria to your child’s teeth and gums. Also, never dip your child’s pacifier in sugar-based products like juice or honey.
Proper Care of Teeth and Gums
Keep in mind that it is never too early to begin a preventative oral hygiene routine with your child. Even though a child’s first teeth are only temporary, they play a very important role in long-term oral health. If possible, wipe your child’s gums with a soft gauze pad and gently clean any visible teeth with a child-size toothbrush between feedings. This is especially important before bedtime.
Regular Dental Visits
Regular dental visits are essential for establishing a foundation for healthy oral habits. It is important that you take your child to a pediatric dentist for periodic exams and preventive treatments. Early childhood visits are highly informational and typically include oral health education that is personalized to your child’s development. If you have questions about proper brushing technique or whether your child can benefit from a fluoride-based toothpaste, your child’s pediatric dentist can help with that too.
The ADA recommends scheduling your child’s first dental appointment within six months of the first tooth eruption, but no later than your child’s first birthday. To schedule your child’s pediatric dental visit, contact our office to speak with one of our helpful appointment coordinators.