A hospital in Australia observed that among babies 12 months old, there was a worrying rise in the number of cases of babies with tooth decay. Dental experts believe the cause of these is the bottle feeding of babies at bedtime to help lull them to sleep.
Some cases were so severe that dentists were forced to remove a baby’s primary tooth. Baby teeth are crucial as they serve as guides for the growth of permanent teeth. “Premature loss of baby teeth can cause the need for orthodontic treatment as your child develops. It is just as important to care for primary teeth as it is for the permanent teeth.”
Richard Wadmer, an associate professor at the Sydney hospital, suggests that this is probably caused by the prolonged bottle feeding of breast milk or formula milk for babies and making them fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth.
“The reason we don’t want that pool of milk left in the mouth is that the normal bacteria we have on our mouths uses the milk to produce acids, which is how tooth decay starts,” adds Wadmer.
How to avoid baby tooth decay: How, then, can parents prevent tooth decay among their babies? Dr. Anne Stewart, president of the Australian Dental Association, gives some recommendations:
“The aim is to try to get into a routine where you aim eventually to not feed the baby to sleep. To help minimize those problems, don’t leave a bottle with anything, whether it’s breast milk or formula, in the baby’s mouth when it falls asleep.”
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Another way to prevent tooth decay in babies, is, of course, to simply not bottle feed during bedtime or to just give water (just for babies 6 months and above, that is).
Parents can also wipe the baby’s gums with cloth or gauze after bottle feeding to remove any decay-causing bacteria or sugar.
Here’s how to clean your baby’s mouth: 1. Hold baby in your arms. 2. Take a soft damp cloth or gauze and wrap it around your index finger. 3. Wipe your baby’s gums from back to front to remove breast milk or formula. If your baby’s already teething, you may opt for a small, soft toothbrush.