San Diego, CA – Early childhood caries, or tooth decay, is the number one chronic childhood condition, affecting more children than even asthma. But for many children, dental caries can be prevented by vigilance from the parents.
“When we see tooth decay in very small children, we often refer to it as baby bottle decay,” says Dr. Santiago Surillo. “Pediatric dentists have to be on the frontlines of educating parents on proper baby bottle and sippy cup use to help prevent tooth decay. My office works hard to educate parents on prevention so that children have healthy, beautiful smiles for a lifetime.”
While we use the term baby bottle decay for very young children who have decay, it isn’t just primarily bottles that are the culprit. Sippy cups can also be an issue. Parents often give their children sippy cups, and these cups are carried around by the child so he or she can drink throughout the day. If the cup is filled with anything other than water, that means all day long the child can be introducing sugars to their mouths.
Dr. Surillo is a San Diego pediatric dentist and orthodontist, and offers these tips for parents of small children when it comes to bottle and sippy cup use.
- Never put anything other than milk, breastmilk or formula in a bottle. Juice and other sweetened drinks should never be given to children in bottles as this can allow the teeth to be bathed in the sugars in the drink, leading to increased risk of decay.
- Never let a child fall asleep with a bottle or sippy cup. Doing so allows the sugars from the drink, including milk, to pool in the mouth, increasing the time they can attack the teeth.
- Encourage your child to drink from a cup by his or her first birthday, and if you use a sippy cup, wean your child from it as soon as possible. If you can, bypass the sippy cup altogether.
- Make water the default. If your child likes to have a sippy cup with him or her, fill it with water only.
- Limit juice and milk to mealtimes. Fruit juice may come from fruit, but that doesn’t mean it is a healthy choice. It’s chock full of sugar, so if you give these drinks, be sure to only offer them at mealtimes when there will be enough saliva production to wash away the sugars. Also, try to dilute your child’s juice with water.
- If your child uses a pacifier, make sure you always provide one that is clean, never dipped in sugar water or honey, and don’t “clean” it with your mouth – doing so can introduce new bacteria to your child’s mouth.
- Be sure that even as an infant, you are wiping the gums clean after each feeding, and as soon as the first tooth appears, you are gently brushing.
“As parents, we are the child’s first teachers, and it is important that we teach them proper oral health skills to ensure they have healthy smiles,” says Dr. Surillo. “You should schedule your child’s first dental appointment on or around his first birthday, and don’t ever hesitate to ask your dentist questions. We are here to help parents ensure their children are as healthy as possible, and a healthy smile can help ensure a child’s overall health.”