Q: Is breast-feeding better than bottle-feeding
in preventing early childhood cavities?
A: Many experts recommend breast-feeding over bottle-feeding for
the overall health of your child. However, breast-feeding can lead to
Early Childhood Cavities in the same way that bottle-feeding can.
To prevent early childhood cavities:
- Avoid overnight feeding, such as bringing baby to bed
with you and allow him/her to nurse at will. Milk can "pool" in the
child's mouth and cause acid to form continuously throughout the night.
This acid leads to decay
- Avoid letting baby walk around with a bottle
- The American Dental Association recommends that you
encourage your child to drink from a cup by his/her first birthday
Q: Is it okay if my child sucks his/her thumb?
Thumbsucking is normal for infants; most stop on their own by age 2.
- If your child sucks his/her thumb beyond age 2, try
to discourage it by age 4
- Thumbsucking beyond age 4 can lead to crooked, crowded
teeth and/or bite problems
Q: Is it okay for my baby to use a pacifier?
Yes, but don't dip it in sugar, honey, or sweetened liquid. In addition:
- Try to have your child give up the pacifier by age 2
- Keep in mind that while a pacifier and thumbsucking
create no health difference for the child, a pacifier may be a better
choice because it can be easier to wean your child from a pacifier than
Q: What is the best way to brush a toddler's teeth?
Use a small, soft-bristled brush. Use a circular or wiggling motion on all
tooth surfaces, especially where the tooth meets the gumline. Once your
toddler is able to spit out, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste
on the brush. Families should ask their dentist to demonstrate proper toothbrushing
during the child's dental visit.
Q: Can I transmit harmful bacteria that may affect
my baby's teeth?
A: Yes. Cavity-causing germs can be transmitted through contact — like
when baby puts hands in your mouth, and then in his/her own mouth. That's
why it's so important to keep your own teeth and gums healthy.
In addition, research has shown that since a pregnant woman shares blood
with her unborn baby, any infection of the mouth - such as a cavity or gum
(periodontal) disease — can affect the baby. According to the National
Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research at the National Institutes
of Health, USA, oral disease/infection has also been linked to such conditions
as preterm, low birth weight babies.
Q: When should I start using fluoride toothpaste
for my child?
A: When your child is able to spit. Fluoride is safe and necessary
to keep teeth strong, but only at appropriate levels. Younger toddlers tend
to swallow toothpaste in excessive amounts, and this may lead to fluorosis,
which causes discoloration of the teeth. And remember — even if your
water is fluoridated, you still need to use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride
is necessary in both "topical" forms — like toothpaste, and "ingested"
forms - like water or fluoride supplements.
Q: I use bottled water at home, and it's not
fluoridated. Is this okay?
A: If you use bottled water for drinking and cooking — or if
your community water is not fluoridated — be sure to tell your doctor
or dentist. They may prescribe fluoride supplements for the baby.