Can Babies Get Cavities?
It’s a myth that babies cannot get cavities in their teeth. If you have a tooth, it can get a cavity, says Lower Manhattan pediatric dentist Dr. Jacqueline Dikansky. Although it’s true that baby teeth will fall out when adult teeth are ready to emerge, this doesn’t mean that tooth decay is either a temporary or a small problem, as a cavity in a baby tooth, when left untreated, can result in an infection or abscess.
What Happens When a Baby Tooth Has a Cavity
Untreated cavities in baby teeth can lead to an infection or abscess in the tooth, causing pain and swelling. Even worse, the infection and/or abscess can result in tooth loss and damage to permanent teeth. Furthermore, if a baby tooth is removed or falls out due to advanced decay, the space left for future adult teeth is compromised, resulting in a crooked bite.
Children with Baby Tooth Cavities Have More Cavities in Their Adult Teeth
Studies show that children with cavities in baby teeth are 3 times more likely to have cavities in their adult teeth. This is likely due to dietary choices, improper or infrequent brushing, flossing and/or professional dental care. In other words: Habits. Habits such as picking up after oneself, washing our hands before eating, etc, are developed in childhood, as are dental hygiene habits. Children that grow up in homes where dental hygiene is given short shrift will become adults who ignore their teeth, as well.
The #1 Way to Reduce Cavities in Baby Teeth
The primary way to avoid cavities in baby teeth is this: never put your child to bed for the night or for a nap with a bottle, whether that bottle contains juice, formula or even breast milk. If baby needs a bottle, fill it with water only. The sugars in these other liquids literally bathe the teeth in carbohydrates which, when combined with bacteria in the mouth, lead to decay. You may have heard the phrase, “baby bottle tooth decay.” That’s what this habit creates.
More Ways to Reduce Cavities in Baby Teeth
- Never share utensils with your child. This includes sharing drinks.
- Don’t “clean” a pacifier in your mouth and then give it back to the baby.
- After giving formula or breastmilk, wipe baby’s gums with a warm, wet washcloth.
- Begin brushing baby’s teeth when the very first one appears.
- Avoid soft drinks, juice (even when watered down) and other high-sugar liquids, including milk, throughout the day. Serve milk at mealtime only. Focus on water as the liquid of choice.
- Limit the amount of sweet, sticky foods, which cling to teeth.
- Give your child lots of “tooth scrubbing” foods such as carrots, apples and celery.
- Floss and brush your child’s teeth twice a day.
Baby teeth are much more important than you may think. Preserving their health is imperative to insure proper speech, room for future permanent teeth, and costly treatment for pain and infections.
Contact our NYC pediatric dental office if you see signs of a cavity in your child. It may appear to be a black, white or dark brown spot that doesn’t go away after brushing and/or any swelling in the gums.