What Can Cause Babies to Develop Tooth Decay?

What causes tooth decay in babies

Why Tooth Decay Happens and How to Prevent It

Finding out that your baby has a cavity can be a shocking surprise! It’s easy to think of tooth decay as a problem that children, teens, and adults face—people that might drink soda and eat sweet treats. Even though infants and toddlers haven’t had their pearly whites for very long, they can develop cavities just like anyone else.

5 Causes of Tooth Decay in Babies

Babies develop cavities for basically the same reasons adults do, although the circumstances may differ.

The five most common reasons include:

1. Poor Oral Hygiene

Baby teeth need just as much care as adult teeth. Just like forgetting to brush your teeth will significantly increase your risk of tooth decay, the same applies to your baby.

2. Unbalanced Diet

Cavity-causing bacteria love sugar and starch. If your baby or toddler has a diet high in sugar or starches, they’ll likely develop cavities.

3. Plaque Build-Up

Brushing and flossing are crucial, but there’s no replacement for professional cleaning. That’s the only way to get bacteria-laden plaque off your baby’s teeth.

4. Open Mouth Breathing

Babies who breathe with their mouths open can develop plaque much more quickly, just like adults with dry mouth. If you notice this habit, discuss it with your baby’s dentist.

5. Hereditary Vulnerability

If you have a history of tooth decay, your baby has a higher chance of developing it. It’s believed that a propensity for plaque buildup can be genetic. Additionally, oral bacteria is transmissible, particularly between mother and baby.

If your baby does have a cavity, there are two options.

For minor tooth decay that presents as a soft spot on the enamel, the best option may be to have a professional dental cleaning and evaluation, improve at-home oral care habits, and monitor the tooth. For tooth decay that’s gone past the enamel and is causing damage, a dental filling is recommended.

At River Walk Dental, Dr. Naik uses silver diamine fluoride as an alternative to traditional fillings. She can also place dental sealants on rear molars as soon as they erupt to protect them from decay.

6 Ways to Prevent Pediatric Tooth Decay

Six things you can do to keep your baby’s smile cavity free:

1. Take your baby in for routine check-ups by their 1st birthday.

Babies should see a dentist for the first time within 6 months of their first tooth or by their 1st birthday, whichever happens sooner. Most dentists will recommend check-ups every six months, just like adults.

2. Discourage sharing cups, utensils, and teething toys.

Do your best to prevent family members from sharing cups, eating utensils, bites of food, and any other items that could transmit oral bacteria. If you have more than one baby using pacifiers or bottles, take care that these aren’t shared unless thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.

3. Start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts.

Use a clean, damp rag to clean your baby’s gums after they eat to help them get comfortable with dental care. As soon as the first tooth begins to erupt, switch to a very soft infant toothbrush. Flossing should start once two teeth are touching.

4. Keep an eye on hidden sugars in formulas, pre-packaged meals, and snacks.

Always check the nutritional facts of pre-packaged foods, snacks, and drinks. Different forms of sugars can hide in foods that are marketed as being healthy.

5. Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle or snacks.

Going to sleep with a bottle or a snack is not only dangerous, but it can also greatly increase your baby’s chance of developing cavities. If your baby absolutely needs a bottle for comfort, consult their doctor first and only fill it with water.

6. Limit fruit juice as much as possible and dilute it by 50%.

Fruit juice is terrible for teeth, even though it’s often considered a healthy alternative to other beverages. Babies between 6 months and 1 year shouldn’t have more than 4oz of fruit juice per day, and it should be diluted. Better yet, skip fruit juice altogether.

Gentle, Family-Focused Dental Care in Flower Mound, TX

Dr. Naik is a family dentist in Flower Mound, TX who offers state-of-the-art dental care for all ages. She eagerly welcomes parents to bring in their babies for their first dental visit. Dr. Naik can help your child get used to dental appointments at their own pace, and she will teach you valuable information on how to keep your baby’s smile as healthy as possible between visits. Schedule your baby’s appointment by calling River Walk Dental or requesting a visit online.

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