There are a number of problems that affect the oral health of children. Among them they are tooth decay, thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, lip sucking, and early tooth loss. Keeping baby teeth healthy is important to a child's overall health and well-being.
Baby bottle tooth decay
Baby bottle tooth decay (also called early nursing caries, childhood caries and nursing bottle syndrome) occurs when a baby's teeth contact often with sugars from liquid carbohydrates, such as fruit juices, fruit juice diluted with water, milk, sugar water or any other sweet drink. Breast milk can also cause tooth decay. When these liquids break down in the mouth into simple sugars and sit in the mouth, bacteria start feeding on the sugars, causing tooth decay.
Decayed teeth can cause pain and make it difficult to chew and eat, if left untreated. If primary teeth are damaged or destroyed, they can't help guide permanent teeth into their proper position. It can possibly result in crowded or crooked permanent teeth.
Some tips to prevent baby bottle tooth decay include:
- to calm or comfort your baby during the day and at bedtime give plain water or substitute a pacifier instead of sugary liquids or milk;
- don't dip your baby's pacifier in honey, sugar or any sugary liquid;
- don't allow your baby to nurse continuously throughout the night while sleeping, use a pacifier or give a bottle filled with plain water instead of breast milk;
- use a wet cloth or gauze to wipe your child's teeth and gums after each feeding;
- don't add sugar to your child's food;
- ask your dentist about your baby's fluoride needs (if your drinking water is not fluoridated, fluoride supplements or fluoride treatments may be needed);
- teach your baby to drink from a cup by his or her first birthday.
Usually, it's normal and healthy for infants to suck their pacifiers, toys, thumbs or fingers. Object sucking gives children a sense of emotional comfort and security. But, if thumb sucking continues beyond the age of 5, dental problems may happen. Depending on the intensity, duration and frequency of the sucking, the teeth can be pushed out of alignment, causing them to protrude and create an overbite. Besides, the child may also have problems with the correct pronunciation of words. Additionally, the upper and lower jaws can become misaligned and the roof of the mouth might become malformed.
First, don’t forget that thumb sucking is normal and should not be a concern of parents unless the habit continues as the permanent teeth begin to emerge.