A child’s smile is one of the most wonderful sights in this world. Unfortunately, that wonderful smile can develop cavities. A cavity is difficult to treat in infants and young children and may cause significant harm to the child’s health. A cavity can become infectious and may result in impairment of nutrition and esthetics, with accompanying psychological problems.
Not to be alarmed though, cavities can be avoided. Every parent is encouraged to pay attention to these six points to ensure their child’s smile stays as beautiful and healthy as ever.
Avoid Prolonged Bottle Feeding
Prolonged consumption of milk within a bottle, especially at night time, can have a negative impact on children’s teeth. Children are encouraged to finish the bottle prior to falling asleep, and it is recommended to be followed with a thorough brush and rinse.
Any ‘cavity producing liquid’ such as milk, juice, pop, or honey water is not recommended to be served in a bottle. Throughout the night as the child sleeps, the saliva production is very low and cannot adequately clean the mouth as well as it can during waking hours. Therefore, if a baby is put to bed with a bottle, it is recommended the bottle only contain plain water.
Avoid Prolonged Breast Feeding
Night time breast feeding is not recommended after the age of 12 months. If breast feeding continues passed 12 months of age, ideally parents are encouraged to brush their child’s teeth after feeding. In some scenarios this may not be possible; in this case parents can gently wipe the child’s teeth and gums with a clean washcloth or gauze to remove milk from the tooth surfaces. Parents may also encourage a child to take a few sips of water after every episode of night time feeding to help rinse off the milk from the teeth.
Avoid Caries Producing Snacks between Meals
It is common to think only sugar containing food can cause cavities, however this is not true. The truth is any food with the capability to stick to the teeth can cause cavities, such as bread, rice, cereal, and the list goes on.
In general, it is recommended to avoid any snacks that may cause tooth decay between meals. This means any sugar containing drink or food is encouraged to be restricted to meal time only.
Avoid Prolonged Use of Pacifier
Prolonged use of a pacifier may have harmful effects on the development of the jaw and teeth. Pacifiers dipped in honey, jam, or any other sweetened liquid is not recommended in order to prevent tooth cavities — especially at night time.
Practice Regular Oral Hygiene Care
Oral hygiene care starts before the first tooth erupts in the mouth. After every feeding, parents are encouraged to gently wipe down the gums and tongue with a clean wash cloth.
As soon as the first tooth erupts in the mouth, the use of a soft toothbrush should be introduced to clean the tooth. When a few front teeth erupt in the mouth, this is the time to introduce non-fluoridated tooth paste with a soft toothbrush (just a smear of paste is needed).
Fluoridated tooth paste should not be used until the child has mastered the skill of complete spitting. Flossing should be encouraged as soon as a tooth develops contact with adjacent teeth. Parents may take complete responsibility of brushing and flossing their young children’s teeth until they are able to do so on their own.
Visit the Dentist Regularly
Regular dental checkups have an added advantage in maintaining a child’s oral health. It is recommended children visit the dentist as early as their first tooth erupts in the mouth and no later than their first birthday. It is important to remember prevention is always better than a cure!
Dr. Nadia Inayat,