Baby teeth generally first make their appearance between five and seven months and are expected to stay around to do their job for six years or more. Many babies still use a bottle for quite a few months following the appearance of those first teeth. Here are some easy to follow tips that will help protect your baby’s teeth while they are still using a bottle.
1. Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle. Breastmilk, formula or juice will pool around your baby’s teeth, providing a great breeding ground for cavities. If your baby insists upon a bedtime bottle, only fill it with water.
2. Clean baby’s teeth after feedings using a soft child’s toothbrush. Most toothpastes contain concentrations of fluoride that are excessive for young children, which, if swallowed, may negatively affect tooth development. Instead, just use water or baking soda until your child is 2 years old. After your child reaches 2, use a natural toothpaste void of saccharin, dyes, preservatives and artificial flavors, all of which are common in most commercial brands.
3. Don’t fill bottles with juice. By the time your child is ready for juice, he or she should be ready to learn how to use a cup.
4. Some time between 12 and 18 months, begin regular dental checkups. If your child is having enamel problems, some dentists will recommend putting a plastic dental sealant on baby teeth. Some of these sealants contain bisphenol-A, a hormone-disrupting chemical that may leach into your child’s mouth. Children under 6 rarely get cavities. If your child needs a filling, try to avoid the common mercury amalgam fillings (the “silver” fillings). There is no conclusive evidence linking the minute leaching of mercury into the mouth with cognitive function. However, high levels of mercury exposure can cause learning disabilities, tremors, memory loss, dementia and damage to the central nervous system. Discuss the options, including costlier porcelain or gold fillings, with your dentist.
Adapted from Mothers & Others for a Livable Planet Guide to Natural Baby Care by Mindy Pennybacker and Aisha Ikramuddin (1999, Mothers & Others for a Livable Planet)