It is not uncommon for parents to underestimate the importance of taking young children to the dentist’s office. After all, they are going to lose those baby teeth anyway. However, the truth is that children should visit the dentist for the first time just after their first tooth emerges, and no later than their third birthday. This early visit will not only help children to become comfortable with their dentist, but early examination of teeth and their underlying structures can ensure that the child’s teeth develop properly.
One aspect of pediatric dentistry that often shocks the parents of infants and very young children is the prevalence of cavities at such an early age. Childhood carries, often known as baby bottle or nursing cavities, are actually quite common amongst small children. The main cause of baby bottle cavities is, unfortunately, a very common occurrence: putting young children or babies to bed with a bottle filled with milk or juice.
When a child takes a bottle to bed, the liquid inside stays on his or her teeth, feeding the bacteria that naturally occurs in every person’s mouth. These bacteria produce plaque, which then leads to decay. Common signs that a baby might be experiencing tooth decay or dental pain may include mealtime crying, trouble falling asleep, and abnormal crying when the child wakes up. In most cases, baby bottle cavities can be removed with a thorough professional cleaning. In some cases, when the cavities have progressed too far, a crown, filling, or even tooth extraction may be necessary, so if parents suspect these carries are present they should consult a pediatric dentist as soon as possible.
The best way to prevent baby bottle or nursing cavities is to start preventive care and a good oral hygiene routine at an early age. Of course, it is best not to put children to bed with a bottle, but this can be a difficult habit to break. If your child needs a bottle to fall asleep, try substituting water or a non-sweetened beverage for milk or juice. Otherwise, a pacifier is fine to use for small children and babies. Another simple way to avoid baby bottle or nursing cavities is to ensure that your child’s teeth and gums are clean. For infants, it is sufficient to gently cleanse the gums with a damp cloth. When your child’s first teeth emerge, you should brush them gently with a baby sized toothbrush. For more information about nursing cavities and how to prevent them, contact your pediatric dentist.