PDA Stresses the Importance of Caring For Your Child’s Baby Teeth
Americans of all ages continue to experience improvements in their oral
health. However, decay in baby teeth increased from 24 percent to 28 percent
among children two to five years of age, according to a recent report released
by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which compared data collected
in 1999-2004 to data gathered 10 years earlier.
To reverse this trend, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) reminds
parents that good oral hygiene must begin very early in a baby’s life.
As soon as baby teeth appear, they are subject to baby
bottle tooth decay, a condition caused by frequent exposure to sugary
liquids, such as milk, formula and juice. Each time an infant drinks sugary
liquids, acid attacks the teeth for at least 20 minutes, and after multiple
attacks, the teeth are susceptible to decay.
“Decay is a result of an infection in the mouth,” said Dr. Richard Galeone, a
PDA member and pediatric dentist from Lansdale. “There are specific types of
bacteria that ingest carbohydrates and then produce acids, which eat a hole in a
tooth (the cavity). The cavity then serves as an incubator for the production of
more of those bacteria.”
As a parent or caregiver, there are many things you can do to prevent decay
from occurring, including:
- Starting from birth, wipe the baby’s gums with a soft wet cloth or a
soft-bristle infant toothbrush and water, especially after each feeding.
- Begin brushing when the first tooth erupts. Clean and massage gums in areas
that remain toothless.
- Never allow the baby to fall asleep with a bottle containing sugary liquids.
“Going to bed with anything other than water is a primary cause of tooth decay,”
said Dr. Galeone.
- Never give the baby a pacifier dipped in sweet liquids.
- Visit a pediatric dentist when the first tooth erupts between six to 12
months of age, and continue regular visits. Regular visits will not only help
detect possible dental problems in their early stages, but also will make the
child more comfortable in the dental chair for subsequent visits. “If parents
themselves are fearful, they should try not to pass this feeling along to their
child,” said Dr. Galeone. “They should not make a BIG deal of the visit, but
should talk of it in a calm, matter-of-fact way.”
- Encourage your child to drink from a cup, not a bottle, around their first
- Begin flossing when all baby teeth have erupted, typically by age two. Also
by two years of age, brush your toddler’s teeth twice a day, preferably after
breakfast and before bedtime. This should be done under the supervision of an
adult to ensure that the child does not swallow the toothpaste.
- Fluoride supplementation should begin as soon as recommended by the child’s
pediatrician or pediatric dentist.
- Establish healthy eating habits for your child. Offer fruits and vegetables
for a snack instead of sugary sweets.
“The baby teeth are important for many reasons including proper chewing for
healthy digestion, freedom from infection and pain, proper speech development, a
happy and healthy smile and for holding the space for the future permanent
teeth,” said Dr. Galeone. “Good habits are just as hard to break as bad habits.
If proper oral hygiene is taught at a young age, it will probably stay with the
person for their whole life.”
more information about caring for your child's baby teeth.
About the Pennsylvania Dental Association
Founded in 1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately
6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association
(ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world. PDA’s
mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of
dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients.
PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. Learn more about PDA.