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Preparing for a Healthy Growing Smile for your Baby

Your child's developing baby teeth are very important for health smiles.

Even before your child has teeth, you can help to ensure that their smile is a healthy one. Your child's baby teeth are important. Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food, speak and have a good-looking smile. Baby teeth also keep a space in the jaw for the adult teeth. If a baby tooth is lost too early, the teeth beside it may drift into the empty space. When it's time for the adult teeth to come in, there may not be enough room. This can make the teeth crooked or crowded. Starting infants off with good oral care can help protect their teeth for decades to come.

Your child's baby teeth are at risk for decay as soon as they first appear-which is typically around age six months. Within six months of the eruption of your child's first tooth, the American Dental Association recommends, and First Choice Dental agrees, that you should schedule your child's first dental visit. At this visit, your dentist can check for any issues in your baby's teeth while they're still developing and answer many of your questions about how to help them have a healthy growing smile.

Tooth decay in infants and toddlers is often referred to as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay or Early Childhood Caries (cavities). It most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected. In some unfortunate cases, infants and toddlers have experienced decay so severe that the teeth cannot be repaired and need to be removed. The good news is that decay is preventable.

Tooth decay is a disease that begins with cavity-causing bacteria being passed from the mother (or primary caregiver) who has these bacteria in their mouth to the infant. These bacteria are passed through the saliva. Pregnant moms can help to avoid risk associated with cavity-causing bacteria by seeing the dentist regularly for checkups, avoiding untreated gum disease. After your child is born, avoid transmitting bacteria from your mouth to your child's by avoiding sharing of utensils. When the mother puts the baby's feeding spoon in her mouth, or cleans a pacifier in her mouth, the bacteria are passed to the baby.

Avoid Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Another factor for tooth decay is the frequent, prolonged exposure of the baby's teeth to liquids that contain sugar, like sweetened water and fruit juice and potentially milk, breast milk and formula. Tooth decay can occur when the baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby. The sugary liquids 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 multiple attacks, the teeth can decay.

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