Protecting Delicate Teeth
AT WHAT age did your teeth begin to develop? You might be surprised to learn that the process started while you were still in the womb—likely before your mother even knew that she was pregnant! It is thus important for an expectant mother to get an adequate supply of nutrients, including calcium, phosphorus, proteins, and vitamins.
What about newborns? Experts say that bottle-fed babies are particularly vulnerable to tooth decay, usually beginning with the upper front teeth. But how does this occur? Some infants routinely fall asleep while sucking on a bottle that contains milk, juice, sugar water, or soda. These fermentable liquids contain carbohydrates on which bacteria thrive. The bacteria, in turn, produce acids that can damage the babies’ teeth—especially if they are in contact with the teeth throughout the night. Some babies with severe decay suffer premature tooth loss, which can adversely affect the development of their permanent teeth.
How can parents protect their baby’s delicate teeth? Breast-feeding is recommended, especially since mother’s milk is sterile and rich in antibodies. If a bottle is used, however, experts say that its use should be discontinued after the baby reaches 18 months of age. They also strongly recommend that a bottle be used only for feeding—and not as a pacifier. Furthermore, if the baby is put to bed with a bottle, it would be best if it contained plain water. After each feeding, a clean, soft cloth can be used to clean the baby’s teeth.
Early tooth decay can be prevented. Proper dental care—yes, even for an infant—is essential!