Did you know that cavities are caused by germs that are passed from adult to child? Infants are born without the bacteria that causes caries- the disease that leads to cavities. Infants are born without the bacteria that causes caries- the disease that leads to cavities. They get it from spit that is passed from their caregiver's mouth to their own. Caregivers pass on these germs by sharing saliva- by sharing spoons, by testing foods before feeding it to infants, by cleaning off a pacifier in their mouth instead of with water, and through other activities where saliva is shared.
These germs can start the process that causes cavities even before infants have teeth, so it's important to avoid sharing saliva with your infant right from the start. See below for more tips on how to keep your infant - and your infant's teeth healthy and happy.
- Eat healthy foods to reduce the cavity-causing germs in your mouth.
- Brush your teeth with a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
- Do not put anything in your infant's mouth that has been in your mouth including spoons or a toothbrush, do not blow on your infant's food
- Do not use your spit to clean your infant's pacifier - use water instead.
- If you have bleeding gums or cavities, you should visit your dentist as soon as possible.
For Your Infant
- Before your infant's first tooth becomes visible in the mouth, you should wipe the mouth every day with a soft, moist washcloth. As soon as teeth become visible in the mouth, brush the teeth with a small soft bristle toothbrush that contains a pea-sized smear of fluoride-containing toothpaste.
- Encourage your infant to spit out the toothpaste.
- You should brush your child's teeth at least twice each day - once in the morning and once at night. Remember, the most important time to brush your infant's teeth is right before bedtime.
- Talk to your infant's pediatrician or pediatric dentist about the right amount of fluoride for your infant. Ask if your child should be brushing with toothpaste that contains fluoride.
- Avoid giving your infant sticky foods and unhealthy snacks like candy, soda or juice in between meals. Instead, give your infant healthy snacks like cheese, yogurt or fruit. Only give your infant treats or juice at meal times.
- Establish bedtime routines that do not involve using the bottle filled with milk or juice to soothe the infant to sleep. Also avoid having the infant sleep with a bottle filled with milk or juice as the natural sugars in these liquids will get changed to acid, which will rot or decay the teeth and lead to dental infection and pain. Avoid having your infant drink from a sippy cup filled with juice between meals.
- Do not give your infant juice until he is 6 months old. Do not give your infant more than 4oz of juice per day.
- If you see white spots developing on your infant's teeth, then take your infant to a pediatric dentist right away. A white spot is often the first sign of a dental cavity.
- Schedule your infant's first dental visit with a pediatric dentist when she is one year old. Pediatric dentists have additional training beyond dental school working with infants and young children. Remember - first tooth, first birthday, first dental visit!
AAPD Sippy Cups
To help parents reduce the risk of cavities in children, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry offers parents the following guidelines on using sippy cups properly:
- The sippy cup is a training tool to help children transition from a bottle to a cup. It shouldn't be used for a long period of time – it's not a bottle and it's not a pacifier.
- Unless being used at mealtime, the sippy cup should only be filled with water. Frequent drinking of any other liquid, even if diluted, from a bottle or no-spill training cup should be avoided.
- Sippy cups should not be used at naptime or bedtime unless they only have water in them. For more pediatric dental care tips or to locate a pediatric dentist in your area, visit www.aapd.org.