Parenting is tough. Almost half the battle is making sure your child has the proper nutrients, play, and rest to grow physically and psychologically healthy. Infancy is a delicate balance of giving your infant what they’re willing to eat and drink — at the right time.
To that end, you might want to give your child a “sippy cup,” or bottle that many parents like to fill with milk or fruit juice.
It’s been popular for decades, and many parents find it keeps their babies from crying out of hunger. If your child enjoys a sippy cup between meals or after bedtime, you might be creating the perfect conditions for cavities to form on their primary teeth, also known as baby teeth.
When Can Sippy Cups Start Causing Problems?
As soon as the first baby tooth comes in, or by 6 months of age, it’s time to start getting your child into a dentist’s chair. Between 6 and 12 months, the Canadian Dental Association recommends you start gentle home brushing and booking your child’s first dental appointment. Then you can get a dental checkup and learn how to care for baby teeth as your baby grows.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
When you give your baby or toddler a sippy cup or a baby bottle — filled with milk, formula, juice, or other sugary beverages — you feed the bacteria that cause cavities. The sugars remain on your child’s teeth, and the bacteria thrive, forming plaque and acid.
The bacteria can quickly multiply, exceptionally well if the child sleeps after drinking from the sippy cup. The acid produced eats through the thin enamel on your child’s primary teeth. Dental professionals call this damage baby bottle tooth decay.
Tooth Decay in General
A cavity begins with a tiny hole forming on a tooth’s surface. These holes form because of plaque, and the corrosive acid that eats into the outer enamel layer of the tooth. The pit in the enamel deepens, eating into the dentin layer beneath the enamel, effectively undermining the tooth’s structure and strength.
Dental fillings can solve already formed cavities effectively, but prevention and early treatment is the best course. However, fillings aren’t a good option for infants just learning to walk while drinking from sippy cups. The pain and trauma can be overwhelming for children that young.
Cavities are more common during childhood, so that first set of children’s dental visits is crucial to identifying cavities and dealing with them in a child-friendly way.
Why Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is a Problem
Some parents of children might argue that babies lose their baby teeth inevitably, so if they lose them to cavities, there’s no problem. However, losing primary teeth earlier than naturally intended can impact the proper growth of adult teeth, and cause a number of health issues like infection. Either way you slice it, no cavities are tolerable.
What You Can Do to Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Cavity Prevention & Sippy Cup Use
There are a few things you can do if your child has been carrying a sippy cup or otherwise enjoying food or drink before sleep.
- Limit acidic or sweet beverages in your child’s sippy cup.
- Substitute these sippy cup beverages with water.
- If your child is still breastfeeding, limit breastfeeding to times they won’t be sleeping.
- Gently rub your child’s teeth after sippy cup use or feedings with a soft tissue.
- Don’t let your child have sugary beverages after brushing their teeth before bed.
- Monitor your infant’s first baby teeth, and look for white spots.
Your child might be upset at the withdrawal of sweet beverages. To comfort them, you can water sugary drinks down over time, and eventually replace them with water.
Treating Cavities via Children’s Dentistry
Children’s dentistry has become a meaningful way to protect a person’s dental health before it requires extensive fillings. It does so by setting a helpful foundation in hygiene and familiarity with the dentist’s office — from infancy.
If you bring your child in for that critical first dental appointment, you can get professional attention on any of those white spots forming a cavity. Fluoride varnish might halt the cavity, possibly reversing the damage. That depends on how early a dentist can apply it.
Plan Your Child’s Journey Through Children’s Dentistry
Children’s Dentists have training on how to make sure your child feels comfortable getting the dental care they need. They’ll associate positive feelings with brushing teeth and future dental visits.
When you bring them in you can get more advice about when sugar-rich foods are appropriate and how to clean your child’s emergent teeth while juggling tasks at home. The whole family benefits when you start thinking about your child’s dental health at the first sign of a tooth.