Cavities – they're not just for adults. Streptococcus mutans, the bacterium that contributes to tooth decay, is a rather indiscriminate little purple menace, and is quite fond of teeth no matter if they're in your mouth or the mouth of your baby. Keeping their mouth as clean as you keep your own can help you stay ahead of early childhood cavities, and only read about baby bottle tooth decay instead of experiencing it firsthand.
With that in mind, here are seven tips that can help you in the fight against Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans), and keep baby bottle tooth decay at bay!
- Limit Snacking: Whenever a person consumes any type of food or beverage, the pH level lowers and the mouth becomes more acidic to aid in digestion. This first step in our digestion process ends about 30 minutes after we eat, and the pH returns to normal to help protect our teeth. When we snack, though, our teeth remain bathing in this acidic environment, wearing down tooth enamel, and providing a breeding ground for S. mutans. The same, of course, is true with infants who feed continually, or without a long enough break. You can counter this effect by planning mealtimes with a reasonable start and finish time. Ask your dentist or GP for the best advice for your child.
- Avoid The Sugar Dip: Some parents are prone to dipping pacifiers in substances like honey or sugar to acclimate a child to using the device. This is generally a bad idea. For the same reasons you wouldn't want to suck on a honey stick, you shouldn't give one to your child as well. Bad for the teeth.
- Don't Share The Spoon: Here's a surprise! Did you know that tooth decay can be transmitted from one person to another? By sharing your child's feeding spoon, you can actually transmit S. mutans living in your mouth to your child. If you want to use a spoon to show your child it's okay to eat in this fashion, you're best off using your own spoon, and then doing a little slight-of-hand-swicheroo.
- Keep A Washcloth Nearby: For children who currently do not have teeth, use a washcloth to clean their gums after eating. Think of this as tooth brushing 101.
- Brush Away: And, for those lucky enough to have teeth already, use a child-safe toothbrush to clean away any food debris after a meal. It's good training for your child, and good for their teeth as well!
- Fill The Bottle Wisely: Avoid putting anything in your child's bottle except formula, breast milk or milk. Anything sweet or sugary will just further promote decay.
- Obey Naptime Rules: Restrict bottle usage prior to bedtime, or at least brush or wash their mouth prior to bed. Allowing a child to sleep with a bottle is considered to be the number one reason for baby bottle tooth decay as the bottle tends to continually drip into the child's mouth. For more on why this is important, see tip, #1.