Cavities and young children
Early childhood caries is an affliction characterized by the baby teeth being damaged by cavities and can manifest in toddlers up to school age children. Early childhood caries can rapidly begin to cause negative effects on not only the baby teeth but the adult teeth as well and can cause:
- Short term or chronic pain
- Dental malocclusion
- Lack of sleep
- Other negative repercussions
How to avoid Early Childhood Caries
There are many contributing factors to the development of early childhood caries, most notably dental hygiene and nutrition.
It is important to note that breastmilk, formulas, cow’s milk, and fruit juices all contain sugars and that the formation and development of cavities follow mealtime and the consumption of sugary drinks. Cavity formation and development can also occur throughout the night in those who sleep with a bottle that is filled with anything else but water.
By consequence, it is recommended to clean your baby`s gums each time after they eat or drink, even if they don’t yet have their baby teeth. Once their baby teeth do appear, it is recommended to brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush in a size that is adapted to the size of their mouth. Please note that the amount of toothpaste should be no larger than a grain of rice at that fluoride toothpaste should not be introduced until after your child is capable of spitting the toothpaste into the sink,
Ideally, you should also be limiting the amount that your baby or toddler drinks before they get into their slumber. It is also recommended to avoid having your child sleep with a bottle in their mouth that is filled with anything but water. Sleeping with a bottle filled with milk, formula or juice allows the sugars from the liquid to coat the teeth and stay in the buccal cavity for long periods of time, favoring the development of carious lesions on their teeth.
Of course, if your child is already sleeping with a bottle, a transition period will be required to help adapt to the new routine.
Tips and tricks to help you and your child transition to sleeping with no bottle.
- Fill the bottle with water only, or begin to slowly dilute the milk or juice with water until the bottle is filled with only water.
- If you are breastfeeding, slowly ease into stopping before your child falls asleep.
- If your child starts to cry, don’t abandon the new routine, instead, console and reassure them.
- If your child refuses, try using a pacifier, or offer a blanket or stuffed animal to keep near them.
The same ideas go for food and snacks. Try to avoid offering your child food and snacks that are high in sugar and stick to their teeth, and when they do, limit their consumption. Instead, do your best to offer healthy alternatives such as fruits and veggies or cheese and yogurt.