Preventing Tooth Decay in your Baby


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SaludToday Guest Blogger
American Academy of Pediatrics

Latino children have the highest rates of tooth decay in the U.S., but you can begin early to prevent cavities from ever starting.

Baby teeth are important!

Yes, they will be replaced later by permanent teeth, but tooth decay, or cavities, is almost completely preventable. The healthy habits you begin with your baby’s first tooth will continue to help as your child grows.

Dentist teeth tooth oral care LatinoWhat causes tooth decay in babies?

Our mouths contain bacteria. The bacteria combine with the foods we eat and beverages we drink to produce acid. That acid harms enamel and damages teeth.

How does tooth decay begin?

One common way that cavities begin is when food or liquids other than plain water – like milk, formula, juice, and sugar water – are left in the mouth. That is why your doctor may recommend that you never put your baby to bed with a bottle or food and that you wipe the gums and new teeth clean with a soft cloth.

Another common way cavities begin is when parents and caregivers pass bacteria to babies through saliva. This happens by sharing spoons or cups and when cleaning off a pacifier or baby bottle tip in the parent’s or caregiver’s mouth.

What can I do before my baby is born?

The first thing you can do before your baby is even born is to take care of your own teeth. Having tooth pain or bleeding gums is not something that comes with being pregnant so don’t be afraid to see a dentist if you have a problem. Seeing a dentist is safe and necessary to make sure you and your baby stay healthy.

At home, make sure you are brushing with fluoride toothpaste, drinking water with fluoride, flossing your teeth, and eating a healthy diet that is low in sugar and sugary drinks.

If you do these things, you’ll have less of the bacteria that can cause tooth decay to pass along to your new baby. 

Where to learn more:

The following webpages from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offer tips and information for parents and caregivers.

Visit the AAP in English and Spanish.

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