Oral Health for Babies
Breastfeeding for the first year of life has been shown to decrease the risk of tooth decay. Breastfeeding has a positive affect on the development of the jaw and the gums and breastfed children are less likely to have crooked teeth when they are older.
If you are bottle feeding your baby you need to take particular care of your little one’s teeth.
There is a condition called ‘bottle caries’ (tooth decay caused by the use of bottles / sippy cups)
This is the decay of small children’s teeth that can happen when using bottles or sippy cups with valves that require sucking. Decay can cause painful toothache and even lead to teeth having to be removed under an anaesthetic
This is because;
- The sucking action brings the tooth enamel into contact with the sugars and acids found in milk.
- If bottles are used in the night there is less saliva in the mouth to dilute the negative affect of sugars and acids on the teeth
- If juices, and drinks with added sugars and acids are added to the bottle this further increases the chance of teeth rotting
- Babies using bottles and sippy cups beyond their first birthday
- children are left with bottles in their cots this leading to comfort sucking and increasing tooth exposure to harmful substances
You can avoid these problems by;
- Wiping your baby’s gums after feeds with a piece of clean gauze dipped in cooled boiled water
- Once teeth appear clean them twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste
- Only give breast milk, formula or plain water to your baby to drink ESPECIALLY when using a bottle or sippy cup
- Do not let your baby fall to sleep whilst feeding – allow time to clean teeth and gums before bed.
- If your older baby wakes in the night offer water only
- Never give sugary drinks by bottle including cold and hot drinks like tea or hot chocolate
- Get your child used to drinking from an open cup from about six months of age
- By a year of age your baby should only be drinking from an open or valve free cup
- Take your child to the dentist by a year of age and visit every six months after this
Some parents find their small babies get a lot of comfort from sucking on a dummy.
Long term dummy use can impact on the healthy development of teeth.
You can reduce risk of harm caused by dummies;
- Keep dummies for sleep time
- Never dip a dummy in anything – like honey or sugar- this will cause dental cavities
- Keep dummies very clean – sterilise frequently ( get a fresh dummy at every feed time more often if the dummy is left uncovered or dropped
- Do not put a dummy in your own mouth to ‘clean it’ this will only cause the transfer of the bad bacteria in your mouth to the baby’s mouth
- Try and wean your baby off their dummy between 6-12 months of age to reduce the risk of crooked teeth and problems with language development
Weaning often happens about the same time as first teeth are often beginning to show.
You can start with tooth friendly food habits from the start.
- Check foods & drinks are sugar-free or have ‘no added sugar’
- Be aware that ingredients ending – ‘ose’ (glucose, fructose, lactose) are all sugars!
- Your child will not miss sugary foods and drinks if they are never given them to begin with!
- Give them fresh fruits and vegetables
- Avoid giving your child fruit juices, cordials and squashes.
- Give any sweeter foods and drinks at mealtimes not as snacks in between – as this reduces the amount of time teeth are exposed to sugary foods
- Savoury snacks are a better choice
- Don’t let them sleep with a bottle or sippy cup. Sucking from it during the night can lead to cavities.
- Switch to a beaker from six months rather than a bottle
- Choose sugar-free medicines when needed.
Who Can Help?
You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.
To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum. CLICK HERE