In the past month, Ella has taken to solid foods and sippy cups like a devoted Olympic gold medallist. It wasn’t easy. But, the road to victory never is. Razzed yogurt. Splattered formula. Mushed blueberries. And, protesting squeals. Much more of a mess at this age than her older brother was. But, my goal to kick the bottle by her first birthday is just three months away. So, “Operation Bottle Bye Bye” is in overdrive.
I refuse to be the parent with a three-year-old drinking juice from a bottle. Not only because preschoolers are completely capable of drinking from cups, but mainly due to the very serious risk of tooth decay and bottle mouth.
Bottle mouth? More common than parents think. It’s when a baby/toddler keeps a bottle with soda, sugary drinks juice, milk or formula in his or her mouth a lot during the day (i.e. overnight bottle nursing, frequent sipping). The liquid ferments around the teeth and leads to enamel damage. Eventually tooth decay.
At least 4 million preschoolers suffer from tooth decay. Four million. It’s an increase of more than 600,000 kids in the last decade, according to Parenting.com.
A March 2012 NY Times article stated that the number of preschoolers requiring extensive dental work is on the rise. “Dentists nationwide say they are seeing more preschoolers at all income levels with 6 to 10 cavities. The level of decay, they added, is so severe, that they often recommend using general anesthesia because young children are unlikely to sit through such extensive procedures.”
Still not convinced? The LA Times reported that more than 50 percent of children will have some tooth decay by age 5 and oral infection is the No. 1 chronic disease in kids.
But, what most parents don’t know is the risks. Tooth decay is mainly caused by bacteria. Germs. Not by the lack of brushing or flossing. And, it’s more common among young children than any other chronic illness.
Yikes. Just picturing my little Jack. Almost three. His tiny feet not nearly reaching the dentist chair edge. Small cubby hand clutching my fingers as the dentist shifts a mask over his mouth. We have a dentist appointment Friday. Glad he brushes his teeth every day and we only let him sip water. Juice only at meals. It’s the addiction to sticky candy that worries me…
Here’s a few leading causes of tooth decay:
- Eating a high-sugar diet (that includes all those processed and frozen foods!)
- Eating sticky candy (Jack is totally guilty)
- Eating frequent sweets or snacks
- Drinking beverages with sugar between meals
Leading causes of bottle mouth:
- Drinking sweetened beverages from the bottle
- Too many bottles after child’s first birthday (even milk in a bottle after 14 months can cause decay)
- Going to bed with a bottle
A few tips to curve tooth decay in kids:
- Choose tap water, not bottled water. Bottled water doesn’t contain fluoride, which protects against cavities.
- Visit the dentist or have the pediatrician do an oral exam by age 1.
- Fight the battle to brush teeth. Start early (as soon as the first tooth appears) and get in the habit of doing it twice a day.
- Cut down on snacks, especially with sugary foods (like raisins).
- If baby is placed to sleep with a bottle, use water and nothing else.
- Wean baby of the bottle by age 1, 14 months at the latest.
- Discuss a fluoride supplement with a dentist or pediatrician for children older than six months.
- Keep your mouth clean. A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics Dentistry (AAPD) found that in 71 percent of cases, the mother transmitted cavity-causing bacteria to infants even before teeth erupted.
- Break the pacifier addiction. The AAPD states the earlier it’s stopped, the less chance it will lead to orthodontic problems.
- Limit the drinks. Aside from juice, breastmilk and formula can also coat the teeth and lead to tooth decay. Don’t let your child walk around with a sippy cup or bottle all day.
- Wipe your baby’s gums – even if there are not teeth – with a damp washcloth after feedings.
- Brush your child’s teeth for at least 30 seconds after breakfast and before bed.
- Start using fluorinated toothpaste at 2 years old. Begin flossing when two of his or her teeth are touching.
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