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Monday, Jan. 27, 2020

Baby, What A Great Smile!

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Infant Oral Care: Start preventing tooth decay early

Did you know that baby teeth are at risk for decay as soon they start to appear, which is usually around when a baby is six months old? It is just as important to take care of baby teeth as it is to take care of adult teeth because they can still develop cavities.

Early Childhood Caries, also known as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, is a disease that the American Dental Association defines as “the presence of one or more decayed (non-cavitated or cavitated lesions), missing (due to caries) or filled tooth surfaces in any primary tooth in a preschool-age child between birth and 71 months of age.”

Tooth decay is the most common health problem for infants and toddlers, and it can be caused by a variety of factors:

• Prolonged exposure to sugary drinks/ putting a baby to bed with a bottle

• Dipping pacifiers in sugar, honey, juice or sweetened drinks

• Shared bacteria being transferred through saliva

• Teeth not being well-cleaned and fluoride needs not being met

• Unhealthy diet.

There are several ways to prevent your infant or toddler from developing tooth decay:

• Avoid exposure to sugary drinks, and do not put a baby to bed with a bottle. Do not put sugar water, fruit juice or soft drinks in bottles. Stick to plain water, formula, milk or breast milk, and do not put a baby to bed with a bottle. Even breast milk and formula can cause tooth decay. All bottles should be finished before putting a baby to bed.

• Avoid sharing saliva. When mom, dad or caregiver puts the baby’s feeding spoon or pacifier in their mouth to “clean it” and then gives the spoon or pacifier back to the baby, this transfers bacteria found in saliva. In this case, sharing is not caring and can cause cavities!

• Use clean, natural pacifiers. As stated above, do not clean your baby’s pacifier with your mouth to avoid transferring bacteria and do not dip pacifiers in sugar, honey, juice or sweetened drinks.

• Brush baby teeth as soon as they start to appear. Brush gently with a childsized toothbrush and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice) twice daily when teeth start to come in until age 3.

• Get enough fluoride. Fluoride is a mineral that helps strengthen the enamel of teeth and prevent cavities. It occurs naturally in water, and can be added to public community tap water, toothpaste and mouthwashes. Give your baby water that contains fluoride in their bottle to drink, and use fluoride toothpaste to brush their teeth. If extra protection is needed, your dentist can provide a fluoride treatment.

• Start seeing a dentist early and schedule regular visits. The American Dental Association recommends scheduling your child’s first dental visit within six months of their first tooth appearing, but no later than their first birthday. Regular visits to the dentist should be scheduled every six months.

Even though they will fall out eventually, baby teeth are important for eating, talking, smiling and keeping space in the jaw to help adult teeth grow in correctly when they get older. It is never too early to start practicing good oral health, and the good news is that tooth decay is preventable!

Dr. Emily Neeley is the director of the Division of Pediatric Dentistry and a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at LSU Health Shreveport. Dr. Neeley attended dental school at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. She then completed a residency in pediatric dentistry at Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry. She is a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. Her practice focuses on the treatment of children with special needs and children who are unable to cooperate in the traditional dental setting.

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