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Baby Teeth and Tooth Decay

As soon as teeth appear in your baby’s mouth, it’s possible for your baby to develop cavities. It is important to keep your baby’s gums and teeth clean to prevent tooth decay, even in baby teeth.

Keep baby’s gums and teeth clean

Begin cleaning your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth. After every feeding, wipe your baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad. This removes plaque and food, and helps your baby become used to having its gums and teeth cleaned – and it will make tooth brushing easier later on.

Brush the teeth of kids over age 2 with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Be sure they spit out the toothpaste.

Baby teeth are important

Kids need strong, healthy baby teeth to chew their food, speak and have a good-looking smile. Baby teeth also keep a space in the jaw for permanent teeth.

If a baby tooth is lost too early, the permanent tooth beside it may drift into the empty space. When it’s time for the other permanent teeth to come in, there may not be enough room. This can make the teeth crooked or crowded. Starting your babies off with good oral care can help protect their teeth for life.

Baby teeth decay

Your child’s baby teeth are at risk for decay as soon as they show up – usually around age 6 months. Tooth decay in infants and toddlers usually occurs in the upper front teeth, but it can also occur in other teeth. In some cases, infants and toddlers have experienced decay so severe that the teeth cannot be saved and need to be removed. The good news – decay is mostly preventable.

Causes of decay

Tooth decay begins when cavity-causing bacteria is passed to an infant. For example, if you put your baby’s spoon or pacifier in your mouth and then put it in your baby’s mouth, cavity-causing bacteria is passed to the baby.

Another cause of tooth decay in babies is frequent or long exposure to liquids that contain sugar, such as fruit juices, soda or other sweetened liquids.

To bed without a bottle

It’s also important to put your baby to bed WITHOUT a bottle. Sugary liquids from a bottle pool around the teeth while the child sleeps. Bacteria in the mouth use these sugars as food. They then produce acids that attack the teeth. Each time your child drinks these liquids, acids attack for 20 minutes or longer. After these attacks, the teeth can decay.

Pacifiers dipped in sugar, honey or sweetened liquids can also lead to tooth decay since the sugar or honey can provide food for the bacteria’s acid attacks.

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