Hi! My name is Ashley and I will be taking over Dr. Jeff’s blog! I plan to update the blog monthly with new interesting dental topics! Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions for upcoming blogs!
Just the title “Baby Bottle Decay” sounds scary…and it can be. For some parents it can even be an embarrassing subject. It is important to educate yourself on your baby’s teeth before they even have teeth. So when that first tooth erupts, you are already well prepared.
Starting oral care early is the key to a healthy start for your baby’s teeth. The minute your baby’s teeth appear is an exciting milestone! Most parents can’t wait to show off that first tooth! But it is important to remember that as soon as the tooth appears, decay can occur. Formula, breast milk, 100% fruit juice and milk all contain sugar that can cause decay. Tooth decay can occur when parents or caregivers put a baby to bed with a bottle that contains ANY beverage other than water. Therefore, never let your baby fall asleep nursing or with a bottle or else those “sugar bugs” will cause cavities on your baby’s teeth!
Cleaning your baby’s teeth on a daily basis is also an important step in preventing decay. Our office encourages parents to start before even the first sign of a tooth! Begin to clean your baby’s gums and mouth within a few days of your baby’s birth. We suggest after every feeding to use a wet gauze pad or a wash cloth and rub on the gums to remove plague and residual food. This also helps your baby become accustomed to cleaning their gums and soon to erupt teeth. Once you see a tooth erupt then you can start using a soft toothbrush and water. If using toothpaste, make sure it doesn’t have fluoride until your child is old enough to spit (usually around 2-3 years old). Swallowing fluoride can cause changes to the newly forming teeth and even upset your little ones tummy.
Starting regular dental visits at an early age is also the key to great oral hygiene. Our office suggests parents set up their child’s first dental visit at around twelve months. This ensures that we recognize any problems at the earliest time possible. It also gets your child in the habit of coming to the dentist and building a rapport with their dentist.
For my ground-breaking, first post, I wanted to talk about a question I get routinely everyday in my practice. “How often should I brush my child’s teeth?” When I ask kids this question, I love the answers I get. Most kids will give me the text-book answer of 2 times or 3 times a day. Some kids are more honest and will tell me once a week or even whenever I get some food stuck on my teeth. Even today, a patient told me that she brushed her teeth 100 times before she came. Clearly by the amount of plaque and food visible on her teeth, I told her to stand closer to the toothbrush! She didn’t understand my attempt at humor.
Anyway, the question is how often should we brush our teeth. When I was growing up, I was always told to brush 3 times a day. Currently, the trend is to recommend brushing twice daily. The truth is that anytime we put anything in our mouth that contains sugar, the bacteria (a.k.a sugar bugs) make acid and start to weaken the enamel of our teeth. This lasts for about 20 minutes and then the sugar bugs stop producing acid. (Simply put – the sugar bugs eat sugar and poop out acid for about 20 minutes after eating). Brushing should really occur anytime after we expose our teeth to sugar. At a minimum, we should brush our teeth twice daily.
Despite my best efforts to control cavities in a patient, some patients continue to get new cavities every 6 months or every year. They may live in an area that has fluoride in the drinking water, and they may use fluoride toothpaste. It just seems that some people are more susceptible to getting cavities. So my first recommendation is to brush at least twice a day if they are currently brushing only once a day. An over the counter fluoride mouth rinse might be recommended to these patients as well. However, based on data from a review from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other research articles, the addition of fluoride mouth rinse in a child’s oral hygiene routine does not reduce the amount of cavities if the child is already brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. So twice a day is the magic number to brush your teeth to prevent cavities but make sure that you stand close enough to the toothbrush to actually remove the plaque and food when you do brush.