Matthew Vogel, DMD
When it comes to the development of a child’s teeth, a variety of seemingly harmless habits can potentially cause long-term damage. While no parent would willing do something to harm their child’s health, even inadvertent actions can often have just as serious consequences. At Gresham Smile Designs, Gresham family dentist Dr. Daniel Ries wants parents to know that by failing to protect a child’s oral health, you risk the development of decay and the potential of lost baby teeth.
Even though you might think that a child’s baby teeth play only a temporary role in his or her oral health until the permanent teeth arrive, baby teeth actually have an enormous impact on how adult teeth form. When a baby tooth is lost too early, neighboring teeth can start to drift into the area left vacant by the missing tooth. When an adult tooth tries to form in the area previously reserved for it, only to find the area now contains a neighboring tooth, the adult tooth can form crowded, crooked, or misaligned. Additionally, a child who loses his baby teeth at too young an age may actually develop a speech impediment or experience trouble eating.
To help you protect the health of your child’s teeth as they develop, here are three bad habit parents should avoid.
Laying a Child Down with a Bottle
A common practice many parents get into a habit of doing, especially if they have a fussy baby who dislikes sleeping, is to lay a child down with a bottle. While this may help soothe a child’s fussing, providing a baby with a bottle that contains sugary liquids can present a serious threat to the health of their teeth.
Plaque, a sticky bacteria that grows in the mouth, thrives off the sugars people eat to produce acids that erode away at tooth enamel. Laying a child down with a bottle that contains formula, breast milk, or sweetened fruit juice basically provides plaque with a nonstop source of fuel to produce harmful acid that negatively impacts the health of your child’s teeth.
As your child feeds, these liquids pool around their front teeth. If allowed to fall asleep before wiping clean a child’s teeth and gums, these acids can spend hours eating away at tooth enamel. This accounts for why the majority of dental carries in children occur along the front teeth.
If your child needs something to occupy her attention when laid down, provide her with a clean pacifier instead of a bottle, and always take the time to wipe clean your child’s teeth and gums following any feeding.
For many parents, cleaning a child’s pacifier or spoon by placing it into their own mouths to rinse it off can happen so quickly that the action might not even register. However, while this might seem like a quick and safe solution for removing any remaining food particles or lingering debris, parents risk transferring bacteria if they place the item back into their child’s mouth.
While plaque grows in everybody’s mouth, the bacteria grows more prevalently in the mouths of adults than in young children. By licking clean a pacifier before placing it back into a child’s mouth, parents, especially those who don’t practice quality oral hygiene of their own, can transfer excess plaque on to their child. With more plaque in their mouths, the bacteria can do even more damage to a child’s still developing teeth during and after a feeding.
To ensure they don’t transfer any bacteria, parents should never place anything that has been in their mouth into their child’s without thoroughly rinsing it first with water.
Allowing a Child to Brush
While parents might think they’re providing kids with the chance to become a little more independent by allowing them to brush their own teeth, young children actually lack the coordination needed to correctly brush on their own.
To prevent tooth decay, parents need to brush their child’s teeth until a child gains the necessary coordination to take over the habit himself. While every child varies, most kids can start to handle brushing on their own sometime between the ages of six and eight. As a general guideline, children begin to possess the coordination to brush their own teeth around the same time they start successfully tying their own shoes.
If you have any questions about the best practices for protecting your child’s oral health, make sure to ask Gresham family dentist Dr. Daniel Ries during your next appointment at Gresham Smile Designs.